Novak Djokovic vs. Alexander Zverev US Open Semifinal Odds, Pick: Will Djokovic Pass His Biggest Test Yet?

Novak Djokovic vs. Alexander Zverev US Open Semifinal Odds, Pick: Will Djokovic Pass His Biggest Test Yet? article feature image
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Credit: Sarah Stier, Getty. Novak Djokovic fires himself up after a point at the US Open.

Novak Djokovic vs. Alexander Zverev

Djokovic Odds -250
Zverev Odds +210
Over/Under 39.5
Time Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET (subject to change)
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

Earlier this summer, German Alexander Zverev pulled off one of the upsets of the year when he ended Serbian Novak Djokovic’s 22-match win streak with a massive comeback victory in the Tokyo Olympics.

After the 20-time slam champion throttled Zverev in the first set 6-1, the German was able to flip a switch, and Djokovic unraveled. He took the last two sets 6-3 6-1 and ended Djokovic’s bid at a golden slam.

The Olympics are not a best-of-five event, though, and slams are a different beast in general. In the pair’s two grand slam meetings, one in Australia and one in Paris, Djokovic has dropped a lone set and taken out Zverev twice. Djokovic leads the non-slam head-to-head 4-2.

Here are the key storylines heading into the matchup.

Djokovic 2 Wins From Calendar Grand Slam

With his win over Matteo Berrettini, Djokovic is now within touching distance of what would be his most impressive achievement in a career that already contends for the best of all time. The calendar grand slam is essentially the pinnacle of dominance in the sport, and Steffi Graf was the last person to achieve the feat in 1988.

Since the beginning of the Open Era in 1968, Rod Laver is the only man to accomplish a calendar slam, doing so in 1969. Neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal have ever put themselves into a position where they had a shot at the calendar slam going into the US Open, outlining just how remarkable the feat is.

Heading into the semifinals of the tournament, the question becomes, will nerves play a factor for Djokovic? History has provided mixed indications for the world number one, so it’s hard to say. If anyone can attempt such a feat and have minimal anxiety, it’s Djokovic.

He’s the undisputed mental king of the sport, coming back from dubious positions in slam tournaments and finals to win time and time again. On two occasions, the Serb has broken Federer’s serve from down double match point and gone on to win the title (US Open SF 2011, Wimbledon F 2019).

On the other hand, the one event that has provided Djokovic with clear mental struggles is the Olympics. He’s never been able to earn a gold medal at the event, which his peers Federer and Nadal have done, and he’s suffered some brutal losses.

Most recently in Tokyo, Djokovic suffered a meltdown against Zverev. It’s hard to argue that the Olympic pressure he was facing wasn’t the reason why he lost the match he was dominating so thoroughly.

A big factor in his chance to beat Zverev on Friday will be how well he deals with the reality of aiming for such a landmark moment.

Zverev Still Looking For a Breakthrough

On the other end of the mental spectrum, at least historically, is Zverev. The issue has limited his ability to find a breakthrough grand slam, despite his status as a world-class player for years. Double faults and errors have plagued the world number four at times, and it cost him dearly in his sole slam final thus far.

In the 2020 US Open final, he hit 15 double faults against Dominic Thiem and completely changed his game style towards the latter stages of the match due to tension.

He was able to compete with the Austrian because he was also suffering from tightness, but it will be fascinating to see if the problem pops up again for Zverev, who has to play in front of the biggest crowd in the sport this time.

If there was ever going to be a chance for Zverev to have his career-defining moment, this would be it. The Olympics and Cincinnati champion is playing some of the best tennis of his life, allowing him to reach the semifinals while only dropping one set. Zverev has only played 15 full sets thus far and has been on the court for far less time in comparison to Djokovic.

Pick

I’ve talked for weeks about how Zverev has the best chance of dethroning Djokovic and ruining his chance at a calendar slam, but value has also played into my suggestions. When push comes to shove, betting against Djokovic at 2/1 simply doesn’t do it for me.

The man is on a 26-match grand slam win streak that includes a win against Zverev, and he’s done nothing to make me believe that his form is low enough where he is severely vulnerable.

His match against Berrettini – the sixth-ranked player in the world and one of the best players of 2021 – was the first of the tournament where his break point conversion rate was less than his receiving points won percentage, but it didn’t matter because he won 44 percent of his return points and generated 16(!!) break points in four sets. Until the match, a Berrettini opponent hadn’t won more than 31 percent of his return points.

Those numbers are simply a joke, and enough reason to give me full confidence in Djokovic’s ability to win this match. Nonetheless, he’s not in his top form, and Zverev certainly is. It would take an out-of-form Djokovic and in-form Zverev for me to pick against Djokovic outright, but there is reason to believe this won’t be an open and shut match.

It would be a discredit to Zverev to give him no shot at winning. He’s serving too well, hitting too well from the baseline, and just took out Djokovic at the Olympics.

But when you have to take three sets off of Djokovic? It’s nearly impossible, per his 88 percent career slam win rate and 91 percent slam win rate since 2010.

Novak Djokovic to win and both players to win a set +150

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