Novak Djokovic’s quest for history marches on.
The World No. 1 is two wins away from the first calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969, after defeating sixth-seeded Matteo Berrettini 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open on Wednesday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Djokovic will next face No. 4 Alexander Zverev in the semifinals on Friday. Two more wins and Djokovic not only has his grand slam, but also his 21st major, breaking a tie with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal for the most in history.
It was the third time this tournament Djokovic stormed back after dropping the first set.
“It was a great match,” Djokovic said in an on-court interview. “A lot of energy on the court, off the court as well.
“Matteo is a terrific player, he’s an established top-10 player. Every time we face each other, it’s always a close battle, it wasn’t any different tonight.”
Berrettini, 25, made Djokovic work for every point. But the 34-year-old Serbian seemingly wore down his younger opponent as the match progressed.
“When I lost the first set, I managed to forget about it, move on, be in the moment,” Djokovic said. “I was dialed in, I think I was locked in, really, from the beginning of the second set. I put my tennis to a different level and it’s been the best three sets I’ve played so far in the tournament.”
Trailing by a set, Djokovic cleaned up his game and quickly worked Berrettini out of his groove. After cruising to a 4-1 lead in the second set, Djokovic went up 40-0 in the sixth game before allowing Berrettini to claw his way back in and ultimately pull within 4-2. But Djokovic handedly took the final two games to keep Berrettini at bay and knot the match at one set all.
That proved to be the last time Berrettini truly put pressure on Djokovic, who became more aggressive at the net and was suddenly more difficult to contain.
“Everyone has different ways, different techniques to be in the zone, to stay calm, composed, focused on the next point,” Djokovic said. “In sports, we talk about that a lot, being in the zone. It’s probably the hardest place and hardest thing to get, most difficult place to stay in. Very difficult to get there, very easy to go out from there. Easy to get distracted. Tennis is an individual sport, you have to deal with your things by yourself.”
After Djokovic jumped ahead four games to one in the third set, Berrettini came out on the right side of a 17-point Game 6 to show some life. He then went up 30-0 in the following game, threatening to get back on serve. But Djokovic answered with a commanding rally to take a 5-2 lead before securing the third set.
The tone was set right off the bat by a 14-point opening game that Djokovic won, which didn’t even hold up as the longest of the match. With Djokovic up 3-2, the sixth game went for 12 minutes, 23 seconds before Berrettini pulled even. The two continued to trade off games, but Berrettini overpowered Djokovic to take an intense first set.
Djokovic, who hasn’t reached the semifinals at the Open since 2018, has been on a mission this tournament. Bidding to win a record-breaking 21st Major title, Djokovic had dropped just three sets heading into Wednesday’s match against Berrettini.
With Wednesday’s win, Djokovic is now riding a 26-match winning streak at the majors.
Berrettini, who sustained a thigh injury a few weeks ago, had an uphill battle to the quarterfinal match. The Italian pulled out a five-set win over Ilya Ivashka in the third round before defeating qualifier Oscar Otte in four sets on Monday.