Alexander Zverev and Lloyd Harris embrace at the net. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Tokyo Olympic champion Alexander Zverev advanced to the US Open semi-finals on Wednesday, moving into Novak Djokovic’s path as the world number one chases a calendar Grand Slam.
German fourth seed Zverev stretched his win streak to 16 matches by defeating South Africa’s 46th-ranked Lloyd Harris 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 6-4.
“It’s going to be an exciting semis,” Zverev promised.
Zverev, last year’s US Open runner-up to now-injured Dominic Thiem, reached his fourth career Slam semi-final and finds himself matched against history-chasing Djokovic on Friday.
Djokovic moved within two matches of completing the first Grand Slam by a man since Rod Laver in 1969 with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 win over Italian sixth seed Matteo Berrettini in a rematch of July’s Wimbledon final.
Djokovic, on a 26-match Slam win streak, seeks his fourth US Open title and men’s record 21st career Slam trophy, which would lift him one above the mark he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both absent with injuries.
Zverev was excited to play before a packed house at Arthur Ashe Stadium after spectators were not allowed to attend last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Last year I won it (the semi-final) before exactly six people,” Zverev said. “So it’s nice to have everybody back.”
Zverev swatted a forehand beyond the baseline to hand Harris a set point in the opening tie-breaker, but Harris sent two forehands long and Zverev blasted a service winner to take the set.
“He was serving incredible, in the first set especially,” Zverev said. “Somehow [I] was able to win that tie-breaker and that loosened me up.
“I’m really happy to get through in three.”
An unhappy Harris, who also dropped served while serving the first set at 5-3, hurled a water bottle at the court after the first set, leaving wet conditions that forced ballkids to soak up the liquid with towels, Zverev helping to wipe the lines himself.
Zverev broke Harris for a 2-0 lead in the second set and held serve from there, capturing the set on a service winner.
In the third set, Zverev broke Harris in the first and third games on the way to a 4-0 edge and finished off the match after two hours and six minutes with his 21st ace of the match.
Zverev had 43 winners to 34 by Harris while both men made 26 unforced errors. The German served 21 aces compared to Harris’ 21.
Results from Wednesday’s matches at the US Open (x denotes seed):
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Matteo Berrettini (ITA x6) 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3
Alexander Zverev (GER x4) bt Lloyd Harris (RSA) 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 6-4
Emma Raducanu (GBR) bt Belinda Bencic (SUI x11) 6-3, 6-4
Maria Sakkari (GRE x17) bt Karolina Pliskova (CZE x4) 6-4, 6-4
Giuliana Olmos/Marcelo Arevalo (MEX/ESA) bt Dayana Yastremska/Max Purcell (UKR/AUS) 4-6, 6-4, 10-6