Novak Djokovic (L) and Matteo Berrettini
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated sixth seed Matteo Berrettini in four sets in the quarterfinals of the 2021 US Open on Wednesday. The 20-time Slam champion will take on Tokyo Olympics gold medalist and 2020 US Open finalist Alexander Zverev in the semifinals on Friday.
Berrettini made a strong start to the match and took the opening set after breaking the Serb in the 11th game. However, Djokovic raised his level by several notches to wrest back control of the match and eventually prevail 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
Speaking to reporters after the match, Berrettini claimed that there were no shortcomings on his part. According to the Italian, Djokovic’s ability to step up his game is what made the difference in the end.
“Really tough match, as always against Novak,” Berrettini said. “I was feeling good, playing good. Just he has this ability – and probably that’s why he’s the best ever – just to step up his game, his level all the time. Doesn’t matter how well I play, he just plays better. He starts to return better, to serve better. Just couldn’t step up like he did. He deserved to win.”
It was the second time Berrettini had fallen to a member of the Big 3 in the latter stages of the US Open. The 25-year-old was beaten by eventual champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the semifinals of the 2019 edition.
Comparing the two matches, Berrettini said he felt better from a physical standpoint against Djokovic. The Italian admitted it was Djokovic’s consistency that tipped the scales in the Serb’s favour, and also lamented the fact that he could not earn any quick points over the course of the match.
“(It) was different with Rafa two years ago, but kind of the same thing. I think with Rafa I also got to the semis. I was more tired. After two sets, I ran out of energy,” he said. “With him I feel good, but it’s just that keep up that level, I need extra – I don’t know – experience I guess, maybe just to play better. He doesn’t give me any free points. I have to earn every single point. Doesn’t matter if I serve or if I return, he makes me sweat in a way that at the end…””I don’t think I played worse than the first set, just a little bit I guess more tired that in a way with other players I wouldn’t feel it. With him, just one point percentage-wise and the game changed. Yeah, that’s what I feel on the court,” Berrettini added.
“Just looking at the stats, Novak Djokovic is doing something that the other two didn’t do” – Matteo Berrettini on GOAT race
Novak Djokovic at the 2021 US Open
Over the course of the press conference, Matteo Berrettini also weighed in on the never-ending GOAT debate involving Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The trio are currently tied on 20 Majors, but Djokovic can take the lead in the Slam race for the first time in his career by winning the title at Flushing Meadows. Considering Djokovic has a positive head-to-head record over both his rivals, while also holding numerous other important records, many believe the Serb has already cemented his status as the GOAT.
When asked whether he thought Djokovic was better than Federer and Nadal, Berrettini was coy in response. However, he did point out that the numbers work in Djokovic’s favor.
“It’s always tricky this question because there are personal opinions and then there are the stats and stuff,” Berrettini said. “I just know we are experiencing something that didn’t happen in the last I don’t know how many years. Just looking at the stats, he’s doing something that the other two didn’t do.”But then everybody can say the G.O.A.T. is one player or the other player. There are still some people they think McEnroe or Sampras or Agassi was just better than him. It’s a personal feeling. I think this is what is great about the sport,” the 25-year-old said.
The Italian also wished Djokovic luck in his bid to win the Calendar Slam. But he was quick to indicate that he would not be throwing his weight behind a single player in the GOAT debate.
“I told him that I wished him good luck for what he is doing. At the end of the careers we can compare,” he said. “But I enjoy them. I enjoy what they’re doing. I don’t like to pick one of the three.”