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Novak Djokovic: World No 1 defeats Alexander Zverev in five sets to set up US Open final with Daniil Medvedev

Novak Djokovic says he will treat Sunday's US Open final "like it is the last match of my career" after battling to a five-set victory over Alexander Zverev; he said: "I'm going to treat the next match like it is the last match of my career"

Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Alexander Zverev (GER) in five sets, at the US Open being played at Billy Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens, New York / USA ©Jo Becktold/Tennisclix/CSM/CSM(Credit Image: © Jo Becktold/CSM via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
Image: Novak Djokovic battled to a five-set victory over Alexander Zverev to reach the US Open final where he will take on Daniil Medvedev for a place in the history books (Credit Image: Jo Becktold/CSM via ZUMA)

Novak Djokovic avenged his Tokyo Olympics defeat to Alexander Zverev over five sets in front of a roaring crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium to move to within one victory of a historic US Open title.

Defeat by Zverev in the semi-finals of the Tokyo Games had denied Djokovic the chance to become the first man to complete the Golden Slam of all four major titles and Olympic singles gold, but the main carrot of the calendar Grand Slam and a 21st major remained within reach.

The German had come from a set down in Japan but here the tables were turned, with Djokovic recovering from that position for the fourth match in a row and then quelling a Zverev fightback to win 4-6 6-2 6-4 4-6 6-2 and set up a date with Daniil Medvedev on Sunday.

Victory over second seed Medvedev on Sunday would see Djokovic become the first man since Rod Laver - who was among the crowd on Arthur Ashe - in 1969 to win all four Grand Slams in one year, as well as moving him clear of his great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the top of the men's major count.

Djokovic said with a smile: "I'm going for a fourth US Open, that's all I'm thinking about. I know people like to hear me talk about it but there's not much to talk about.

"There is only one match left. All in. Let's do it. I'm going to put my heart and my soul and my body and my head into that one. I'm going to treat the next match like it is the last match of my career."

Djokovic has been a slow starter this fortnight but not here, despite a delay for President Joe Biden to fly into New York ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

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The pair were soon involved in crunching rallies, which suited Zverev just fine. The German, runner-up to Dominic Thiem in last year's final, began to get the upper hand, forcing a first break point in the seventh game and then taking one two games later.

Djokovic's forehand was a little wayward and a double fault on break point, followed by a shank on Zverev's third set point, betrayed the weight on his shoulders.

Djokovic was under pressure again at the start of the second set but this time he held and suddenly the tension switched to Zverev, who played a poor game to hand the initiative straight back.

Nerves threatened to overwhelm the match in the third set, with neither man able to play freely, but it had a stunning conclusion.

Zverev did not face a break point until the 10th game, when Djokovic showed why he is arguably already the best player in history, simply refusing to miss.

The German won an extraordinary 53-shot rally on Djokovic's second chance, the pair matching each other stroke for stroke, seemingly daring the other to go for too much, but Djokovic took his third opportunity anyway.

It was a familiar script but Zverev went into the contest on a 16-match winning streak and he continued to believe the match was winnable, upping the aggression and playing a superb game to break for 2-1 in the fourth.

That proved enough to push the contest into a decider but Djokovic found a level Zverev simply could not match and he clinched victory after three hours and 34 minutes.

The German backed his good friend to make history on Sunday, saying: "He's breaking every single record that there is. I think mentally he's the best player to ever play the game. Mentally in the most important moments I would rather play against anybody else but him."

Djokovic, who has already hoisted the trophy at Flushing Meadows three times before, has now equalled Federer's record of 31 Grand Slam men's singles finals and will face Russian Medvedev in Sundays final, after the second seed eased past 21-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in his semi-final.

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