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Djokovic ousts Federer in five-set epic

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Originally published on: 12/09/10 10:13

Novak Djokovic booked his spot in the second US Open final of his career in the most dramatic fashion imaginable, saving two match points before clinching victory over five-time champion Roger Federer in the second of Super Saturday’s semi-finals.

The No.3 seed, beaten at this stage for the past two years running after losing the 2007 final – all against Federer – broke the Swiss in the final game of the match to seal a 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 7-5 victory that will last long in the memory for featuring some of the finest tennis on display over the past fortnight.

Hopes for another Federer-Nadal Grand Slam showdown – which would have made them the first duo to face off in all four Grand Slam finals – were ended when Djokovic’s nerve held the firmer in the closing stages of an enthralling encounter than ended just six minutes short of the four-hour mark.

Such a feat had not appeared likely earlier in the match, when Djokovic let a 4-2 lead slip in the opening set and, having stormed through the second in just 29 minutes, smashed the racket against his head in frustration in the late stages of the third – a move that pre-empted a seven-point run for Federer that tied up a twp sets to one lead.

Even then, however, it was clear that Federer was not at his best in his seventh straight US Open semi-final. His serve, so reliable even in high winds against Robin Soderling, deserted him at times, though the Swiss was taking more risks with it as he looked to pick up cheap points.

In the rallies, such points were proving hard to come by. Djokovic was outstanding in both attack and defence for long periods in the match, never more so than in the fourth set as time and again he outthought and outfought the 16-time Grand Slam champion.

Federer hadn’t lost a set to a 6-1 scoreline in New York since Andre Agassi breadsticked him in 2001. Such was Djokovic’s dominance at times that he nearly managed the feat twice, racing a double-break clear once more before serving it out in game eight.

What followed was a set of tennis that will undoubtedly be replayed time and again should the rain return to New York next year. The decider was a rollercoaster, punctuated with spellbinding winners, hair-rising errors and shifting momentum.
Representing the match in microcosm, Djokovic dictated proceedings for the most part, but it looked set to count for nought when he slipped 15-40 down when serving at 4-5 to hand Federer two match points.

The manner in which the Serb saved them – the first with a drive volley, the second with a rasping forehand, both of which were clean winners – had the New York crowd in rapture. While Djokovic, who in the first round of this year’s tournament had been taken the distance by compatriot Viktor Troicki, rode the wave of emotion, Federer wilted.

The Swiss was clearly rattled after failing to close out the match and produced three forehand errors in the next game that left Djokovic serving for the match.

Even then, the saga was not over. The Serb had to recover from 0-30 and, even after Federer let the chance to go up 15-40 slip by, hitting a short ball back to Djokovic at the net with the court gaping, the Swiss did conjure one last break point, but Djokovic snaffled the opening as quickly as he presented it.

Moments later he held a match point of his own and, thanks to Federer’s 21st unforced error of the set, booked his spot in the final.

“It was just a big pleasure playing in this kind of match,” said Djokovic afterwards. “It’s one of those matches you’ll always remember in your career. I’m just so thrilled to be in the final.

“To be honest I was just closing my eyes and hitting forehands as fast as I can on the match points,” he beamed. “If it goes in, it goes in. If it goes out, you know, another loss to Federer in the US Open. I managed to come back. I was very lucky.”

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