Nadal cruises into final
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will clash on Monday in their third final at the US Open after the top two seeds both advanced over dangerous semi-final opponents.
Top seed Djokovic battled for more than four hours on Saturday with Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka to earn a 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 trip into his fourth consecutive New York title match.
The world number one lost a 21-minute third game of the final set but broke two games later to take control, before ending his victory with an ace.
Nadal was ruthless as he extended his career dominance to 11-0 over Richard Gasquet, beating the Frenchman 6-4, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 in just under two and a half hours.
Nadal lost serve for the first time in 88 service games - 73 at this event - as Gasquet broke him early in their second set. The Spaniard had won his last 15 sets against Gasquet.
Nadal missed the tournament in 2012 as he sat out the second half of the season with a knee injury.
The Spaniard, who was denied a chance to move back to world number one by Djokovic’s win into the final, said he was happy to be back on court.
“It’s a dream for me to be playing this final, especially after what happened to me last year,” said the 2010 champion from Spain, who holds a 21-15 margin over Djokovic.
“I’m looking forward to the final on Monday. I’ll just try to keep focusing on my game, get in some light practice and be ready for the match.” Gasquet was the first Frenchman to play the New York semis since Cedric Pioline in 1999. His only other final four at a major came in 2007 at Wimbledon.
Nadal improved to a 2-0 record this season on hard court and stands 59-8 on the season with nine titles since he returned to the courts in February. He has now reached the final in 12 of 13 tournaments.
Djokovic’s win over Wawrinka was his second in five sets this season against the Swiss after winning 12-10 in the fifth set in January at the Australian Open.
“These are the matches that we live and train for,” Djokovic said.
Playing his 14th straight grand slam semi-final, the Serb lost the opening set on a double break of serve.
“It was obvious that Stan was hitting much more aggressively and playing a better tennis. I just had to hang in there and adjust my game,” Djokovic said.
“I had to play tough and believe all the way through I can actually win. And I sincerely believed that as the match progresses and longer it goes, I felt I have maybe that physical edge over him.
Djokovic said the “swirly” wind conditions made it harder on Saturday, “At the end of the day, I managed to stay tough and play well when I needed to. That’s something that definitely encourages me before the final.” Competing in his first semi at a major, Wawrinka said later that he had been having small physical problems with a leg since the third round last week. He took an off-court injury time out while trailing 4-1 in the fourth set.
“At the end of the third set I start to feeling my right leg, and at that moment I knew I was going to be out of fuel if I had to play a long match and struggle a little bit against him,” Wawrinka said.
“I had to change a little bit my game because I couldn’t be that aggressive. I couldn’t take my forehand as I want. It was not easy.” The players received standing ovations entering and leaving the Ashe showcase court.
“I think I need to take the positive again of that loss, for sure.
It’s my first semifinal in a Grand Slam, so I had a great tournament,” said Wawrina, the ATP number 10.
“It was a tough match and a tough loss. I gave everything I had and fought my best until the end. It was an amazing experience.” He said he felt in control of the match before the leg injury flared up.
“I think I was playing better than him. I was doing much more things than him,” Wawrinka said.
“But he’s not number one for nothing. He was staying with me all the match, and at the end he pushed me, pushed me far, far, far back.
I had to find everything I had in my body today to stay with him, but he won the match.” Wawrinka reached the semis after putting out holder Andy Murray in straight sets. It was the first time in 35 grand slams that he has gone further than compatriot Roger Federer, who lost in the fourth round.