Matteo Berrettini is well aware of the fact that a set victory over Novak Djokovic means very little.
Even with the knowledge that a single slip-up in the Wimbledon final allowed Djokovic to storm back and win the match, Berrettini lost to Djokovic in the U.S. Open quarterfinals on Wednesday. He was powerless to halt the course of history.
Novak Djokovic Beats Matteo Berrettini in U.S. open Quarterfinals
Djokovic’s path to a possible calendar Grand Slam has been impeded this year by Berrettini, the eighth-ranked player in the world, who is worthy enough to be noticed but easy to navigate around.
Third time in a row, Djokovic had to battle through a tough match against the hard-hitting Italian, but this time he prevailed, winning in four sets (5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3).
Djokovic remarked that his second, third, and fourth sets were the best he has played in the competition thus far. “I feel like I’ve improved my tennis skills to a higher degree. I went to a new level after losing the first set, and I stayed there until the very end. To say the least, that boosts my spirits and provides me assurance.”
With this Victory,
Djokovic advances to the tournament’s semifinals and is closer to tying Rod Laver’s 1969 record of winning all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year and breaking the current record of 21 major titles held jointly by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Alexander Zverev, a 24-year-old German who came within two points of winning the U.S. Open a year ago and who defeated Djokovic this summer in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics, is waiting for him.
On Wednesday, Zverev advanced to the semifinals with a straight sets victory over Lloyd Harris of South Africa. “Against him you know that you have to play the greatest match that you can,” he said. The only way to succeed is to achieve absolute perfection. In most situations, perfection is impossible. Which is why most people lose while playing against him.
For 1 hour and 17 minutes, Berrettini was nearly flawless, giving himself a chance with his powerful serve and forehand. In a tense service game, Berrettini won the first set after breaking Djokovic at 5-5 with a scorching cross-court passing shot and then forcing four errors from Djokovic.
Djokovic has now lost the first set in a tiebreaker for the third straight match at this tournament, and for the ninth time this year at the Grand Slams. Each of these encounters, though, has followed the same pattern, with Djokovic instantly stepping up his game and figuring out how to break down his opponent.
I was in a fantastic mood and on top of my game,” Berrettini remarked. “Simply said, he always manages to raise the bar for himself, which is perhaps what makes him the greatest of all time. It doesn’t matter how brilliantly I play, he always outplays me.
To his credit, he begins to improve his service once again. I was unable to take charge like he did. He merited the victory.”
Djokovic nicknamed Berrettini the “hammer of tennis” before their encounter on Wednesday, and he knew it would be tough if Berrettini served well. However, all Djokovic needs is a crack of daylight to start exploiting holes.
With Berrettini’s 130 mph rockets not landing in the service box as often as they had in the first set, Djokovic was able to focus on his backhand, a shot that serves primarily to neutralise rallies in the hopes of setting up a forehand.
Berrettini was in deep trouble because he couldn’t do any harm to Djokovic from the backhand side, either with slices or two-handed backhands.
It swiftly developed into a highlight reel of passing shots and flicked winners that made the Italian seem ridiculous as Djokovic became more comfortable bringing Berrettini’s massive serves back in play, eventually winning 40% of the points when he had to return a first serve.
By the end, it appeared that he was in control of the ball at will, if only to allow him to show off his muscles and rally the Arthur Ashe Stadium audience whenever he pleased.
What I am Good at is Self-Awareness.
“When I make a decision, I don’t waver from “It was Djokovic who made the statement. “I’ve spent years honing my skills to the point where my game now has zero weaknesses.
There are always areas of improvement for every player. You can never get too good at something; there’s always room for development.
I aim to develop a well-rounded skill set so that I can adapt to any court surface, come up with novel playing strategies, and successfully implement them in any given match.”
Djokovic still has to play Zverev and possibly No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in the final, both of whom are considered to be formidable opponents. The conventional thinking states that in order to defeat Djokovic in a major match, you must first take the lead and play from a position of strength.
Winning the first set against Djokovic hasn’t proven to be too difficult for him, but it’s certainly preferable to the other. To put it another way, he’s just getting warmed up for this event.
“It seems like he doesn’t care with him,” Berrettini remarked. “In reality, he draws strength from the loss of that set. He is accustomed to it at this point. You’re very much out of luck.”