*Djokovic (6)6-7 6-2 Zverev Have a look! Djokovic plays a single-handed backhand and Zverev murders one of his own down the line for 0-30! But Djokovic isn’t fazed, his forehand dominating the next point, and when Zverev makes a backhand error, all Djokovic needs for the set is two aces, so that’s all he does. The cosmos is righting itself.
Djokovic (6)6-7 5-2 Zverev* Zverev won’t be wanting Djokovic to serve first in set three so needs to hold here and does – as Barry Davies might say.
*Djokovic (6)6-7 5-1 Zverev Zverev gets a point off Djokovic’s serve, so Djokovic bangs an ace down the middle to seal it. He’s serving a lot of aces at the moment which, when you’re already the best returner around, spells grief for your opponents.
Djokovic (6)6-7 4-1 Zverev* Djokovic has won eight Aussie Opens – including the last two – from eight finals played; that’s an absolute joke. But Zverev is on the board in set two, muscling through a revitalising love hold. The first set took nearly an hour; this one’s been going less than 15 minutes.
*Djokovic (6)6-7 4-0 Zverev Djokovic opens the game with an ace spinning out wide, then makes 30-0 with a dismissive forehand. A service winner, out wide again, comes next – typical Djokovic, beating his opponent at their own game – and quickly completes a fourth straight love hold.
Djokovic (6)6-7 3-0 Zverev* Yeah, Zverev has that confused look on his phizog when he finds himself at 0-30, but then bases a backhand down the line so well that Djokovic applauds. That guy is so magnanimous! I love that guy! Djokovic is going to Zverev’s backhand a lot at the moment, another another winner off it makes 30-all … but then he goes long from down by his ankles, after which a superbly constructed point by Djokovic, finished with a backhand down the lie and into the corner, establishes the double break. Things have changed very extremely quickly.
*Djokovic (6)6-7 2-0 Zverev That break was so crushingly predictable and Zverev will be just as aware of that as Djokovic, who consolidates to love. That’s eight of nine points for him, and momentum might just be shifting.
Djokovic (6)6-7 1-0 Zverev* Zverev needs to keep focused here – only he knows what it took to win that first set, but we all know what happens if he drops below that level. And there you go – at 15-30 he goes long with a backhand after which my SkyGo drops out and returns to confirm that yes, Zverev lost focus right when he knew it was danger, did it anyway and lost his serve as a consequence.
Djokovic (6)6-7 Zverev A tremendous serve from Djokovic allows him to save set point with a forehand winner, but then Zverev reads a drop and glides a backhand down the line which facilitates a smash. That raises a third set point for Zverev, this one on his own serve, and when Djokovic can only block back a second effort, he goes in front – as he ought to have done quite some time ago.
Djokovic 6-6 (5-6) Zverev No one’s holding it down now – when that happens there’s only one winner – and Zverev loses a second consecutive service point thanks to an imprecise forehand. But he finds a colossal forehand when he needs it, cleaning up with an overhead, and we’re back level … until Djokovic finds an ace. The pressure ratchets up a notch as such, but Zverev goes out wide as he ought to have done when serving for the set and despatches a further smash, the rinses an ace down the T; set point, but on the Djokovic serve.
Djokovic 6-6 (3-3) Zverev Djokovic knows that when things get tight so will Zverev – he made three unforced forehand errors when serving for the set – and shonuff, when made to play an extra ball at 0-1 in the breaker, he goes long with the backhand. But he’s quickly back at 2-2 and then properly steps into a succession of forehands to seize a mini-break of his own. But he can’t consolidate it, Djokovic’s forehand inciting him to net.
Djokovic 6-6 Zverev* Zverev holds easily, and we have ourselves a breaker.
*Djokovic 6-5 Zverev Yeah, welcome to the real match, Sascha. Djokovic holds to love and both players look different, Djokovic having eaten a mushroom and Zverev having lost his.
Djokovic 5-5 Zverev* Here we go. Djokovic finds a fine return down the line, backs it up with a solid backhand that takes him to the net; Zverev can’t pass. Another fine return then makes 0-30 and Zverev is tightening, playing percentages instead of seeking the monsters out wide that have been so definitive so far. But there’s one! After outlasting Djokovic in a baseline slog for 15-30, he clobbers a service-winner out wide … before going down the middle again. Why? Djokovic returns easily, Zverev nets, and here’s a break-back point! A 25-strike rally ensues, this is what Djokovic wants, and Zverev drops a forehand long, of course he does – he’s made three unforced errors in this game. He served beautifully in this set, especially out wide, then changed it up – we can only assume because of nerves – and was made to pay.
*Djokovic 4-5 Zverev Djokovic is going to need some breakers to win this, I think, because he’s struggling to do much with Zverev’s serve as Zverev is with his, save that early aberration. But as I type that, a fine return followed by a winner down the line turn 30-0 into 30-all, then Djokovic dumps a forehand into the net for deuce. That was very uncharacteristic, and in commentary they reckon that shot “looked sore”; it’s hard to know how bad his stomach is because if it was even slightly so, you’d think it’d stop him from playing. Anyhow, a backhand winner from Zverev earns him set point, then a backhand winner, on the run and down the line from Djokovic, saves it, before a succession of unconverted Djokovic advantages until one is eventually take to end a nine-minute game. Zverev will have to serve for it.
Djokovic 3-5 Zverev* Zverev has such a high toss, and he brings the racket down so true – or truly, as the case may be, grammar massive. Again, he holds easily, and Djokovic is in a spot of trouble here.
*Djokovic 3-4 Zverev Djokovic races through a love hold, but needs to find a way of attacking the Zverev serve. I’ve no idea how he does that.
Djokovic 2-4 Zverev* Zverev is doing a good job of making first serves, and when he misses one at 0-15 he finds a high kicker like Stefan Edberg in his prime. Very quickly, it’s 40-15, and an ace out wide secures the game; Djokovic isn’t getting close to breaking him at the moment.
*Djokovic 2-3 Zverev There’s no real pattern to the match so far, both players hitting good shots and bad shots in various positions. At 40-30, Djokovic tries a backhand drop which Zverev is ready to run down, but it hits the net … and at advantage, Djokovic makes his 12th and 12th unforced errors of the match so far. But he saves break point with an ace, follows up with another, and then cements an important hold.
Djokovic 1-3 Zverev* Djokovic gets 0-15; a service winner follows, then an ace. Zverev is 6’6, which makes such a huge difference; a while ago, I was talking to an agent on behalf of a young player, and the first question I was asked was how tall is he. A further ace, sliced out wide Ivanisevic-style, follows at 40-15, and if Zverev keeps this up he’s a hard night for anyone.
*Djokovic 1-2 Zverev A poor drop for Djokovic hands Zverev 0-15, quickly rescued by a service winner down the T. He holds to 15, and is in the match.
Djokovic 0-2 Zverev* Zverev catapults through a love hold in minus time, and is something happening here?
*Djokovic 0-1 Zverev Djokovic is averaging 15 aces a match and he sticks one in here, but then finds himself at deuce and goes long with the forehand! Zverev has an immediate break point, and will know he’s unlikely to get many chances so needs to snaffle this. he doesn’t, because he doesn’t have to – Djokovic sends down a second double of the game, and that’s the break! Given how well Zverev is serving, that could be crucial, and what a good call he made to receive!
I suppose Zverev has beaten Djokovic at the ATP finals, but this isn’t that. Djokovic is desperate to finish his career with more majors than anyone else and will have to play badly to lose because he’s just much better.
Zverev has never beaten a top-10 player at a major and will have to go some to win this. But he’s serving well and Djokovic isn’t fully fit so maybe this is his time … yet conversely, maybe it isn’t.
Coming up next, as Mike Goldberg might say: Novak Djokovic v Alexander Zverev. Truly, there is nothing more godly than working-day sport.
So there we go: a very very good performance from Serena, and with plenty of scope for improvement. Simona wasn’t quite there, but she wasn’t allowed to be either – though Serena made a load of unforced errors, she found even more winners and most noteworthy of all, her movement and retrieval was absolutely on point. If Osaka plays well, she’ll still need to find another level, but it’s there for her and she knows it is, not something that’s been so for a while.
Serena tells Jim Courier that she realised she was making a lot of unforced errors in the games she lost so told herself to stay in there. She says that was the best match she’s played this tournament and she had to, playing against the number 2 in the world, so she’s excited. She agrees that her de-fence was good today – her coach told her it had to be, but she didn’t really work on it in the off-season as she was mainly getting healthy. She has cameras everywhere, apparently, and there’s some kind of thing in the works but she won’t say what. Asked about the seh-mye, she says that Osaka is a great player, inspiring on and off the court; she’s been watching her and is sure the reverse is so.
Serena Williams beats Simona Halep 6-3 6-3!
Williams 6-3 6-3 Halep* Serena has played pretty well today – Simona knows that she needs to finish points quickly because if she doesn’t a winner is imminent, and she’s not quite managing it. It’s no great shock to see Serena glide to 0-30, but then Simona finds a sensational backhand down the line, hammered flat for her first point in nine, but then she’s pinned in the back corner and can’t fight her way out, netting to hand Serena two match points. The first disappears when a forehand goes long, but a wondrous backhand return sets up a forehand cross-court winner into the corner, and that is a majestic, beauteous performance from the greatest of all-time. She plays Osaka next; I cannot wait for that.