US Open: Semi-finalists all hungry for first Grand Slam title

In the past 12 years, only seven men have won the US Open and, without any of them left in the 2020 draw, four others have the chance to write their names in the history books.

Semi-finalists Pablo Carreno Busta, Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem are all acutely aware of the opportunity that is in front of them.

All came into this second Slam of the year knowing Novak Djokovic was the favourite due to his extended winning run and love of the hard courts in New York. However, after the incident which saw the Serb defaulted in the fourth round, the men’s draw was burst open.

“There are a lot of guys who are hungry for it and I know that all of the young guys are hungry for it,” Zverev said after his quarter-final victory over Borna Coric.

“There may not be Novak, Roger (Federer) and Rafa (Nadal) but there’s Daniil, Sascha [Zverev] and Pablo [Carrena Busta],” Thiem added after his last-eight match.

“They are three amazing players and every one of us deserves this first title. We will give it our all.”

With all four men staring opportunity in the face, and the semi-finals commencing on Friday, we take a look at each contender in turn…

Pablo Carreno Busta

  • World Ranking: 27
  • US Open Seeding: 20th
  • Career Singles Titles: Four
  • Previous US Open best: Semi-finals in 2017
  • 2020 Campaign: Yasutaka Uchiyama [R1], Mitchell Krueger [R2], Ricardas Berankis [R3], Novak Djokovic [R4], Denis Shapovalov [QF]
  • Time spent on court: 11 hours and 56 minutes

Carreno Busta often reserves some of his best tennis for the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and knows what it is like to be in the US Open semi-finals after his run to the last four back in 2017.

He has the ability to frustrate his opponents due to his solidity on court and, personality wise, the Spaniard has one of the key qualities required in a professional tennis player; determination.

A four-hour and nine-minute battle with Denis Shapovalov in the quarter-finals was not the ideal preparation going into a semi-final. However, given that his match against Djokovic lasted just an hour before the Serb was defaulted, means he should be up for the challenge of facing Zverev.

US Open Men’s Singles Champions since 2008

Alexander Zverev

  • World Ranking: Seven
  • US Open Seeding: Fifth
  • Career Singles Titles: 11
  • Previous US Open best: Fourth round in 2019
  • Campaign so far: Kevin Anderson [R1], Brandon Nakashima [R2], Adrian Mannarino [R3], Alejandro Davidovich Fokina [R4], Borna Coric [QF]
  • Time spend on court: 13 hours and 53 minutes

Zverev, one of the ‘Next Gen’, has often been criticised for his performances at the Grand Slams. For a man with such talent, exits in the early rounds of Slams have occurred more frequently than they should have done.

After his work in Australia in January, this marks his second successive Grand Slam semi-final which potentially signals a turning point for the 23-year-old. He has openly admitted he had been “trying too hard” at the Slams and he needed to learn how to deal with the pressure.

It was mental, I wanted it too much and I was trying too hard in Grand Slams. The Grand Slams are tournaments that you play for, the reason why you started playing tennis. I needed to learn how to deal with that pressure. I needed to learn how to deal with those expectations of myself. It took me a little bit of time.

Alexander Zverev

Zverev has spent more time on court than any of the other semi-finalists and his serve is an area which has the potential to be his greatest weapon or his Achilles heel. If he finds the mark with it against Carreno Busta, it has the ability to fortify his game immensely.

As is the case with all four men, Zverev knows the magnitude of the opportunity ahead of him and that his remaining match (or matches) will test just how much his mental strength has improved.

Daniil Medvedev

  • World Ranking: Five
  • US Open Seeding: Third
  • Career Singles Titles: Seven
  • Previous US Open best: Runner-up in 2019
  • Campaign so far: Federico Delbonis [R1], Christopher O’Connell [R2], J.J. Wolf [R3], Frances Tiafoe [R4], Andrey Rublev [QF]
  • Time spend on court: 9 hours and 55 minutes

After progressing into the last four without dropping a set, Medvedev is bidding to become the first man in the Open era to win the US Open without dropping a set.

Last year he enjoyed a dramatic campaign in New York and just fell at the final hurdle due to the strength of Rafael Nadal.

As was the case 12 months ago, the Russian is battling with his body and that was evident by him having treatment on his shoulder and for cramp during his semi-final. Despite these ailments, he always manages to find something extra when he needs it.

Thanks for picking a nice photo😜🤦‍♂️🤷‍♂️ https://t.co/NwCAB1u2dG

The 6ft 6ins right-hander has the recent experience of a final at Flushing Meadows in his locker, which could be a trump card, and the confidence of how dominant he has been on serve.

He has faced just eight break points in total since the first round and only one in his last two matches against Rublev and Tiafoe.

Dominic Thiem

  • World Ranking: Three
  • US Open Seeding: Second
  • Career Singles Titles: 16
  • Previous US Open best: Quarter-finals in 2018
  • Campaign so far: Jaume Munar [R1], Sumit Nagal [R2], Marin Cilic [R3], Felix Auger-Aliassime [R4], Alex de Minaur [QF]
  • Time spent on court: 10 hours and 32 minutes

Thiem, like his semi-final opponent Medvedev, is entering the last four in form and raring to go. He ruthlessly dispatched De Minaur in the quarter-finals and lost just seven games in three sets.

The Austrian, the first from his country to reach this stage of the US Open, brings a potent baseline game to the court and has spoken about how he has had to adapt to the new normal of empty stands at a Slam.

“There are some situations in every match where it would be nice to have the crowd just to keep the energy up; to celebrate great points and so that it doesn’t feel that bad if you are going through a tough period. That’s all kind of gone and that was not easy to get used to.”

The 3x Slam finalist is looking to go one better this year…@ThiemDomi #USOpen pic.twitter.com/qMbfnWUiEA

Thiem has reached more Grand Slam finals than the other semi-finalists, but all three ended in defeat.

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