Tennis grand slams: Who is the greatest of all time?
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Novak Djokovic is just two wins from becoming the first male player to win a calendar Grand Slam since 1969 – but on Wednesday night he came close to an unwanted bit of history too. Djokovic bounced back from losing the opening set of his quarter-final match with Italian Matteo Berrettini to comfortably prevail 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 – but almost managed to scupper himself in the process. Leading 3-1 in the fourth set, Djokovic casually hit a ball back towards the ball kids and umpire, missing the youngsters by a whisker.
In 2021 Djokovic, 34, was infamously thrown out of the US Open after accidentally hitting a woman line judge with a ball during his match against Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, and also had to forfeit the $250,000 he earned for reaching the fourth round.
The irony wasn’t lost on the ESPN commentary team, with John McEnroe quick to condemn the Serbian.
“Novak just smashed that ball in the direction of the chair umpire,” he said.
“Get your act together.”
Patrick McEnroe sitting courtside added: “Pay attention out there.”
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Lead commentator Chris Fowler also questioned the antics of the world No 1, especially given he was on the brink of victory at the time.
“Be a little bit careful smacking tennis balls around in random directions,” he said.
“Yes, if I was him. That’s a good point. No lines people, but ball kids,” responded McEnroe, before Fowler added: “Yes, and that was pretty close to them that time. It’s a good time to keep your cool, closing in on a semi at two sets to one and a break.
McEnroe rounded off the discussion by asking: “It’s like what is going on?”
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Djokovic was also widely criticised after his conduct in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where his hopes of a ‘Golden Slam’ were ended by a semi-final defeat to Alexander Zverev, before he was beaten by Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta for the bronze medal.
During the match against the Spaniard, Djokovic threw his racquet into the stands during the early stages of the third set and also smashed it against the floor.
He later apologised for his outburst, blaming the tension of the situation for his actions.
Rafael Nadal was amongst those afterwards to question Djokovic’s status as a role model to aspiring youngsters.
Regardless, Djokovic is now potentially just six sets from history as he looks to become the first man since Rod Laver to win all four Slams in a year.
Victory at Flushing Meadows will also see him capture a record 21st Grand Slam title, moving him clear of Nadal and Roger Federer who both currently tie with him on 20 majors.
And his semi-final will be a rematch from Tokyo as he faces 2020 US Open runner-up Alexander Zverev.
The German player, 24, advanced with a straight-sets, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4, win over South African Lloyd Harris on Wednesday.
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