US Open: Djokovic eyes rare calendar Grand Slam to surpass Nadal and Federer

By Sports Desk August 29, 2021

Novak Djokovic is a strong favourite to become only the third man to complete a calendar Grand Slam and make history at the US Open.

Djokovic has won all three majors this year and can complete a 2021 clean sweep at Flushing Meadows.

The irrepressible world number one would also go beyond Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – both absent due to injury – with 21 grand slam singles titles if he triumphs in New York.

There will be no elusive record-equalling 24th major singles crown for Serena Williams, who has not recovered from the hamstring injury she suffered at Wimbledon.

With Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka the leading contenders to take the women's singles title, Stats Perform use Opta data to preview the final grand slam of the year.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES FOR DOMINANT DJOKOVIC

Djokovic was thrown out of the US Open last year after accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a tennis ball.

The 34-year-old arrived in New York in far better spirits than when he left last September, having taken on all comers this year.

Djokovic missed out on a Golden Slam when he failed to win Olympic gold in Tokyo, but he could join Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) as the only men to win all four majors in the same year.

Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Court (970) and Steffi Graf (1988) are the only women to achieve the incredible feat.

 

BARTY TO GO BACK-TO-BACK?

Barty became the first Australian woman to win a Wimbledon singles title for 41 years in July.

Not since Williams in 2012 has a player claimed back-to-back women's singles major crowns in the same year, but Barty could take some stopping.

She could become the ninth woman in the Open Era to win Wimbledon and the US Open in the same season. 

Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis, Venus Williams and Serena Williams can boast that achievement.

OSAKA BACK TO DEFEND TITLE

Japanese sensation Osaka won her third grand slam title at Flushing Meadows last September and went on to add a fourth at the Australian Open this year.

Osaka returns to grand slam action for the first time since withdrawing from the French Open, citing struggles with her mental health.

The world number three could be the first woman to win consecutive titles at Flushing Meadows since Serena Williams claimed three in a row from 2012 to 2014.

Osaka is the only woman to win at least one major title over the past four seasons, winning the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021, as well as the US Open in 2018 and last year.

 

ZVEREV BIDS TO BANISH PAINFUL MEMORIES

Alexander Zverev was beaten by Dominic Thiem in his maiden grand slam final in New York last year after the German had been two sets up.

He will not have to face Thiem this time around as the defending champion is sidelined due to injury.

Zverev was the only player to serve 100 or more aces during the tournament last year, firing down 131 but also racking up more double faults (64) than anyone else.

The world number four won his fourth title of the year in Cincinnati last week but Djokovic is undoubtedly the man to beat at Flushing Meadows.

Related items

  • Packers out to avoid another playoff nightmare against upstart 49ers Packers out to avoid another playoff nightmare against upstart 49ers

    The San Francisco 49ers prevailed in the Wild Card round as they renewed a storied rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys. Now, they will be underdogs again as they lock horns with a postseason foe more familiar to them in recent years.

    While the Niners' 23-17 upset win over the Cowboys was the first postseason meeting between the two teams since the 1994 campaign, playoff clashes between San Francisco and the Green Bay Packers have been more habitual of late.

    Green Bay and the 49ers have faced off in the postseason in every decade since their first playoff meeting in the 1995 campaign, last doing so on January 19, 2020 when San Francisco won a 37-20 rout in the NFC Championship Game.

    That scoreline carried on a trend in this matchup. The 49ers and Packers have split their eight all-time meetings in the postseason, but the Niners have won each of the last three. In those three games, they have outscored Green Bay by an average of 11.3 points (35.0-23.7). 

    Saturday's game at Lambeau Field is expected to be much closer, with most backing the top-seeded Packers to turn the tide.

    Green Bay won the Week 3 matchup at Levi's Stadium, though the Packers needed a last-gasp field goal from Mason Crosby, following some vintage Aaron Rodgers heroics, to avoid defeat.

    Rodgers is the favourite to retain the NFL's MVP award and enters this game in blistering form. 

    He has thrown for multiple touchdowns and no interceptions in each of his last seven games, the second-longest such streak in NFL history (Tom Brady, nine straight in 2010).

    The three-time MVP threw 37 touchdowns and just four picks this season, the most passing touchdowns with four interceptions or fewer in a single season all-time. 

    Yet Rodgers is going against a Niners defense playing its best football of the season. San Francisco held the Cowboys' number one-ranked offense (407 yards per game) to 307 total yards, with Dak Prescott completing only 53.5 per cent of his passes as he was pressured more than any other quarterback in the Wild Card round, coming under duress 25 times.

    San Francisco's deep defensive front would appear to have the edge this weekend, too. The 49ers' finished the regular season ranked first in Stats Perform's pass rush win rate metric - boasting a win rate of 32.6 per cent - while the Packers were 23rd with a pass protection win rate of 72.6 per cent.

    The Packers will hope the potential return of left tackle David Bakhtiari can redress the balance but if it does not then the contest could tilt in the favour of San Francisco. When under pressure this season, Rodgers completed 49.6 per cent of his passes. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts under duress, the only two to fare worse were rookies Zach Wilson (41.7 per cent) and Trevor Lawrence (45.7 per cent).

    If the Niners pressure Rodgers and get the Packers behind the chains and playing catchup on the scoreboard, then they will look to control the clock by keeping the ball on the ground with All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel and rookie running back Elijah Mitchell.

    Samuel scored the first rushing touchdown by a 49ers receiver in postseason history to put San Francisco 23-7 ahead against the Cowboys, while his 72 yards on the ground were the most in the playoffs by any wideout in the Super Bowl era.

    Mitchell rushed for 96 yards last weekend, a 49ers rookie playoff record. The Niners are 7-1 when Mitchell rushes for at least 75 yards this season and 1-3 when he plays and does not.

    A long night may be in store for the 49ers and their secondary should Rodgers stay on schedule, and that could mean history for his favourite target, Davante Adams.

    Adams has had exactly nine receptions in each of his last three playoff games. That is tied for the longest streak of postseason games with nine-plus catches in NFL history (Julian Edelman, 2015-2016).

    With at least nine catches in four of his five games against San Francisco (regular and postseason), he is a strong bet to break that record. Adams failing to do so would be a major indicator of Green Bay suffering another nightmare against a team that has continually haunted them in the playoffs.

  • Man Utd 'destroyed' by Brentford in first half and only deserved a draw - Frank Man Utd 'destroyed' by Brentford in first half and only deserved a draw - Frank

    Manchester United were "destroyed" in the first half of their 3-1 win over Brentford, with Thomas Frank claiming they only deserved a draw at most. 

    United failed to register a single shot on target in the opening period in west London on Wednesday, while David de Gea was forced into three saves from Mathias Jensen and Ethan Pinnock. 

    After Cristiano Ronaldo sent a header against the crossbar at the start of the second half, Anthony Elanga put the Red Devils ahead with their first shot on target. 

    Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford put United out of sight and secured a 300th Premier League away victory for the club, with Ivan Toney netting a late consolation for Brentford. 

    "Unbelievably proud of my team. I think we are the smallest club in the Premier League, Manchester United are probably the biggest. The way we played in the first half, I think we destroyed them," Frank told BT Sport. 

    "We should have been up at least 2-0, they didn't have a sniff, nothing. We created five, six chances and three huge chances. Man United deserved a maximum of a draw. I think they are unbelievably lucky. 

    "Of course you need to take your chances, I know all that c**p. But the performance, I'm proud of that. They changed the system against little Brentford. I'm so, so proud of my team. 

    "[It was] one of those nights, it's football. Fair play to De Gea, a very good performance. If we get those chances again one will go in the back of the net. 

    "Our intensity killed them, we showed that in the first half. We pressed them, when we had to we defended low, we won the second balls, we played behind and ran behind them. We played the Brentford way in the first half. 

    "The game opened up. They hadn't had a chance before their goal. Of course, I know that's why they pay 72 million [pounds] for [Jadon] Sancho, who's not even included in the team. That's why, that little bit of brilliance created the first goal. 

    "Of the three goals, the second is most disappointing and difficult to come back from. There were huge positives. I think the way we smashed them in the first half was fantastic, so proud of my team." 

  • Inzaghi delighted with Inter fightback in Coppa Italia triumph Inzaghi delighted with Inter fightback in Coppa Italia triumph

    Simone Inzaghi expressed his delight with Inter's reaction as his side came from behind to beat Empoli in the Coppa Italia last 16.

    Empoli stunned the Serie A leaders in the second half as substitute Nedim Bajrami cancelled out Alexis Sanchez's opener before the visitors fortuitously took the lead at San Siro when Ionut Radu deflected into his own net.

    Andrea Ranocchia levelled things up with a stunning, acrobatic stoppage-time equaliser to send Inter into extra-time in the last 16 of the competition for the fourth time in their last eight outings.

    Substitute Stefano Sensi stepped up to deliver the decisive strike after 104 minutes, Inzaghi's side now boasting 20 different scorers this season – more than any other team in Europe's top-five leagues in all competitions.

    Despite squandering an initial one-goal lead, Inzaghi was pleased with what he saw from his side as they made the quarter-finals for the 18th time in their last 19 seasons.

    "I think we had an excellent first half, where we found the goalkeeper who should be congratulated for two, or three, difficult saves," Inzaghi told Inter TV post-match. 

    "In my opinion, we deserved a few more goals, then in the second half we lost clarity, we stretched out. In the spaces, they showed the qualities they have. 

    "We went down, we changed players, we changed formation, but the boys gave everything on the pitch, they didn't give up and we go to the quarters with a lot of confidence.

    "We suffered, we went under, but I take the big reaction."

    Inter return to Serie A action on Saturday when they host Venezia.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.