NEW YORK – The game took 21 minutes. It lasted 30 points.
Novak Djokovic squandered five break points and lost that instant classic of a game but made Stanislas Wawrinka pay an awfully heavy price.
After dropping the epic third game of the final set Saturday, Djokovic broke the next time Wawrinka served, then didn’t falter once he had the lead. The top-seeded Serb withstood a 4-hour, 9-minute onslaught of Wawrinka’s massive groundstrokes to pull out a 2-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory and advance to his fourth straight final at the U.S. Open, where he’ll play Rafael Nadal.
Second-seeded Nadal beat eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-2 in the second semifinal – a much less dramatic affair than the opener, in which Djokovic could feel the stakes rising with every point he played at 1-1 in the fifth.
Well, I was thinking – I guess everybody was thinking – Whoever wins this game is going to win the match,’ Djokovic said. After he won the game, I thought to myself, OK, I guess I have to fight against those odds.’
He did, to improve to 20-7 in five-set matches, and now, Nadal and Djokovic will meet Monday in their third final at Flushing Meadows in the last four years, the only break coming last year when Nadal was out with a knee injury. They split the first two meetings, with Nadal winning in 2010 and Djokovic in 2011.
Novak is an amazing competitor, Nadal said. His results say that he is probably one of the best players that I have ever seen.
Nadal won easily despite dropping his first service game of the tournament. He had extended his streak to 73 when Gasquet broke him in the fourth game of the second set. Both men held until a second-set tiebreaker, which Nadal won 7-1 to end what little drama existed in the afternoon’s second match.
Fans certainly got their money’s worth in the first one.
I managed to find my way through, to adjust, and to win, Djokovic said. That’s what counts.
The question now is whether Djokovic can recover for his Monday final in time.