Tennis: Novak Djokovic and Maria Sakkari advance to the semifinals of the US Open

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Novak Djokovic advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2021 U.S. Open, moving one step closer to completing a rare calendar-year Grand Slam. Maria Sakkari advanced as well, defeating Karolina Pliskova in an upset.

Djokovic and Sakkari both went to the quarterfinals of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Forest Hills, New York, late Wednesday.

Berrettini, of Italy, beat his top-ranked Serbian counterpart 7-5 in the first set of their three-hour, 26-minute match up at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Djokovic rallied to win the final three sets 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. He fired 12 aces, 44 winners and converted 5 of 16 break points in the win.

“I managed to raise the level of my tennis when I dropped the first set,” Djokovic told reporters. “I just went to different level and I stayed there.

“That’s something that encourages me prior to the semifinals. It was a great battle.”

Berrettini, ranked No. 8, logged 17 aces, 42 winners and converted 1 of 5 break points. Berrettini logged 43 unforced errors, compared to Djokovic’s 28.

Djokovic advanced to face No. 4 Alexander Zverev in the semifinals Friday in Forest Hills. The German upset the Serbian in the semifinals of the 2020 Summer Games this summer in Tokyo to deny Djokovic’s quest for a Golden Slam.

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“He deserved to win a gold medal and hasn’t lost a match since,” Djokovic said of Zverev. “He is in fantastic form. It’s best of five in a Grand Slam.”

The winner faces No. 15 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada or No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the men’s singles semifinal Sunday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Zverev advanced earlier Wednesday with a straight-sets win over No. 46 Lloyd Harris of South Africa. Zverev logged 21 aces, 43 winners and converted 4 of 9 break points in the win. Harris fired 13 aces, 34 winners and converted two of his three break point opportunities.

Sakkari, ranked No. 18, upset the fourth-ranked Pliskova in straight sets Wednesday in Forest Hills. The Greek tennis star logged four aces, 23 winners and converted 2 of 5 break points.

Sakkari overpowered Pliskova with her serve and won 22 consecutive points off her serve.

Her Czech foe totaled six aces, 14 winners and did not face a break point in the one-hour, 22-minute match. Sakkari used the 6-4, 6-4 win to advance to a semifinal match against No. 150 Emma Raducanu of Great Britain.

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“I’m very happy I managed my stress level and expectations,” Sakkari told reporters. “It was tough to close it out, but I think I did quite well.”

Earlier Wednesday, Raducanu, 18, upset Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in straight sets in the first women’s quarterfinal.

The winner of the Sakkari-Raducanu semifinal faces No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus or No. 73 Leylah Fernandez of Canada in the 2021 U.S. Open women’s singles final Saturday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Fernandez faces Sabalenka in the first women’s semifinal at 7 p.m. EDT Thursday in Forest Hills. Raducanu battles Sakkari in Thursday’s second semifinal. Both matches air on ESPN.

Auger-Aliassime battles Medvedev in the first men’s semifinal Friday. Djokovic then faces Zverev for the second ticket to the men’s final.

Emma Raducanu serves a point en route to defeating Belinda Bencic in straight sets in the quarterfinals to advance to her first semifinal at Arthur Ashe Stadium on September 8. Photo by John Angelillo

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