Djokovic cruises to win over Fritz for record semi-final run at US Open | US Open Tennis 2023

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After a week filled with upsets in the bottom half of the men’s draw, Taylor Fritz, the ninth seed, was left as the highest-ranked player there besides Novak Djokovic for a while. His enduring presence in this tournament, which has yielded his first US Open quarter-final, is the culmination of another excellent, consistent season as the 25-year-old has established himself among the elite.

Yet at a time when the top two players, Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz, are performing at such a high level, the gulf between the second- and ninth-ranked players is so great. As Djokovic’s level continued to rise, at no point on Tuesday afternoon did he ever look threatened in his straightforward 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over Fritz.

As usual, another deep run at a major tournament brings more records for next week’s world No 1. The 36-year-old has now reached a men’s record 47th career grand slam semi-final, breaking his tie with his old rival Roger Federer.

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“Obviously, this is the sport that has given me so much in my life,” said Djokovic on what these numbers mean to him. “Coming from Serbia, a war-torn country in the 90s when I was playing tennis, I had to face a lot of adversity that I had to endure even to get a shot to travel and play my sport.

“There’s a lot of things that I’m very grateful for. Obviously it’s a huge opportunity every time I step out on the court at this point in my life. I don’t know how many more opportunities I get so I’m trying to enjoy every time.”

Despite the US Open being arguably his least successful grand slam tournament, Djokovic’s 13 semi-finals here rank him second on the men’s all-time list behind only Jimmy Connors, who reached 14. He is guaranteed to face another American on Friday: Frances Tiafoe or Ben Shelton.

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Novak Djokovic clenches his fist after winning a point
Second seed Djokovic underlined the gulf between him and the ninth seed Fritz. Photograph: Danielle Parhizkaran/USA Today Sports

After his late-night comeback from two sets down against his countryman Laslo Djere in the third round, Djokovic noted that he hoped the victory would send a message to the locker room. He has played his role to perfection since then, his form gradually rising as he has won nine consecutive sets and dominated convincingly.

Having been offered a helpful draw after the exodus of top seeds in the half, Fritz could not have arrived in the quarter-finals in better form. He had not dropped a single set, barely even losing games until his three-set win over Dominic Stricker, Stefanos Tsitsipas’s conqueror, in round four. He had dropped serve just once in his 50 service games.

Fritz has risen up the rankings impressively, first winning Indian Wells last year and then backing it up this season with consistency across the weekly grind.

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The Californian is blessed with a well-balanced game – his vicious first serve, which scales 140mph, is complemented by a sweet two-handed backhand and a much-improved forehand and he has learned to take the initiative.

But from the beginning, Djokovic simply outclassed Fritz in all categories. It took just one return game for Djokovic to break his opponent’s serve and the American’s first set conceded in the tournament could have hardly been much more one-sided.

Throughout the match, Djokovic protected his serve effectively, offering up just one break of serve across the three sets. He was typically relentless behind his return of serve, allowing Fritz to win just 28% of points behind his second serve. The gulf in movement and athleticism between the pair was particularly stark, with Djokovic dominating the extended rallies as he efficiently dealt with the challenge before him and kept on moving.

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