Novak Djokovic reacts after reaching the semifinals of the 2021 US Open
Novak Djokovic was made to work hard yet again at the US Open on Thursday, but he overcame a one-set deficit to beat Matteo Berrettini in four. With his win, the World No. 1 has advanced to the semifinals in New York for a whopping 12th time.
Djokovic committed a slew of unforced errors in the first set, dropping it 7-5. The Serb, however, shifted into high gear from that point onwards as he took Berrettini apart to register a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
More significantly though, Novak Djokovic now holds the Open era record for most Major match wins in a season after dropping the first set. The 34-year-old has won nine such matches in 2021 so far.
Perhaps if a cat has nine lives, so does Novak Djokovic.
Coming from a set down (or two sets down, even) has been a regular theme for Novak Djokovic this year. The Serb has lost the first set in three of his matches during the US Open, but has been resilient enough to eventually come away with the win each time.
Djokovic also withstood an early barrage of aces and winners from Berrettini himself during this year’s Wimbledon final. The World No. 1 again came from a set down there to beat the Italian in his Grand Slam final debut.
Apart from that, Djokovic also overcame a one-set deficit en route to beating local hope Jack Draper in his SW19 opener.
Novak Djokovic’s toughest Major campaign this year, however, has been Roland Garros. The Serb was forced to come from two sets to love down against Lorenzo Musetti in the fourth round, and then again against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
Djokovic also beat 13-time winner Rafael Nadal in a grueling four-set semifinal despite dropping the first set.
Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas embrace at the net
Novak Djokovic’s Melbourne campaign was smoother sailing compared to the other three, as Alexander Zverev was the only player to lead him by a set during the fortnight.
Here is a breakdown of Novak Djokovic’s nine Grand Slam wins from a set down in 2021:
Australian Open – def. Alexander Zverev 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (6)
Roland Garros – def. Lorenzo Musetti 6-7 (7), 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0, def. Rafael Nadal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2, def. Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7 (8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
Wimbledon – def. Jack Draper 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, def. Matteo Berettini 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3
US Open – def. Kei Nishikori 6-7, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2, def. Jenson Brooksby 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, def. Matteo Berrettini 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3
Rod Laver, Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl jointly held the previous record for most Major match wins from a one-set deficit in a single season
Before the 2021 US Open, the record for most Slam matches won from a set down in a season was jointly held by Rod Laver, Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl. Laver won seven such matches in 1969 – the year he became the first player in the Open Era to win the Calendar Grand Slam.
Ivan Lendl celebrates after winning the 1984 French Open title
Ivan Lendl, meanwhile, won seven Grand Slam matches after losing the first set in multiple seasons – 1984 and 1987. The eight-time Major winner came from two sets to love down against John McEnroe to win his maiden Slam at the 1984 French Open, and also defeated Mats Wilander from a set down to win his third (and last) US Open title in 1987.
Pete Sampras was also a force to reckon with in his peak years, and won many long matches in gutsy fashion. The 14-time Major winner overcame a one-set deficit seven times in 1995, the highlights of which include his Wimbledon triumph from a set down against Boris Becker and his Australian Open campaign following his coach Tim Gullikson’s death.