Mon, Sep 09, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Djokovic sets up Nadal showdown

AP and AFP, NEW YORK

Novak Djokovic hits a return during his US Open semi-final against Stanislas Wawrinka at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

For the 37th time, for the sixth time in a Grand Slam final and for the third time in a US Open decider, Novak Djokovic will play Rafael Nadal in the title game of the season’s last major after the two top seeds won their semi-finals on Saturday in contrasting fashion.

Top-seeded Djokovic advanced to his fourth straight US Open final by overcoming the loss of a 21-minute game in the fifth set to defeat Stanislas Wawrinka 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

While the Serb, labored, Nadal swept past Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), 6-2.

Nadal extended his streak without losing a service game to 73 before Frenchman Gasquet broke him in the fourth game of the second set. Both players held through to the tiebreaker, which Nadal won easily.

The theatrics of the third game of the final set in the Djokovic-Wawrinka match was so compelling that the game was interrupted twice by standing ovations.

Wawrinka, with his strained right thigh taped after a medical timeout in the fourth set, erased five break points and navigated 12 deuces until finally delivering a service winner to hold for a 2-1 edge. He stepped gingerly to the sideline, plopped down in his chair and smiled.

That grin remained in place throughout the two-minute changeover. If the ninth-seeded Wawrinka was enjoying the moment, perhaps feeling a tad relieved, Djokovic was ever more determined. He responded by taking the next three games, propelling himself to a fourth consecutive title match at Flushing Meadows and fifth since 2007.

Nothing so dramatic occurred when 12-time major champion Nadal played Gasquet, who was in his first Grand Slam semi-final since 2007.

Nadal did drop serve once, but saved five other break points as he stretched his hard-court record this year to 21-0. A year after missing the US Open because of a bad left knee, Nadal is looking as fit and as impressive as ever.

In the past, the US Open was the only Grand Slam tournament to schedule the men’s semi-finals on Saturday and the final on Sunday, instead of having a day of rest in between. This year, the tournament scrapped that plan and built in an extra 24 hours.

As it is, Djokovic said he “didn’t find it very fair” that he needed to play at noon on Saturday after finishing his quarter-final at about 11pm on Thursday. Nadal and Gasquet played their quarter-finals on Wednesday.

“I didn’t find any logic in that, to be honest,” Djokovic said. “But, again, there are some other, I guess, influences that have more power than players, and this has to be changed.”

Nadal is 21-15 against Djokovic, but said when they play, it “becomes a very difficult match for both of us.”

Nadal said he would rather face a less-formidable foe, because wanting to play someone as good as Djokovic would be “stupid.”

Djokovic, meanwhile, called trying to beat Nadal “the biggest challenge that you can have in our sport now.”

Czech fifth seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka won the women’s doubles final, beating Australian eighth seeds Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 6-4.

It was the second Grand Slam title in as many days for Hlavackova, who joined Max Mirnyi of Belarus in winning the mixed doubles on Friday.

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