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Gale force wins for Feds and Djokovic

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Originally published on: 09/09/10 10:30

For the fourth year running, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will face off at the US Open after both came through their last-eight matches in straight sets.

On another day that saw most matches affected by gale force winds that swept over the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center, The No.2 and No.3 seed adapted best to the conditions, Djokovic subduing Gael Monfils before Federer improved is head-to-head record against the perceived threat from Robin Soderling.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion produced an exemplary serving display despite he conditions to post a 6-4 6-4 7-5 victory that was even more convincing than the scoreline might suggest.

Opting for pace and placement at just the right times, Federer left Soderling, who beat him at this stage at Roland Garros earlier this year to end his run of consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals at 23, clueless on return.

“I’ve been practicing my serve a whole lot, for my whole career. If I can’t serve in the wind, I’ve got a problem, you know?” said Federer, who hit 18 aces to Soderling’s two during the contest. “You could probably wake me up at two in the morning, or four in the morning, and I could hit a few serves.”

“I always expect Roger to play well and serve well,” admitted Soderling. “He served really well. He was brushing the lines a lot with his first serve, which is not easy when the weather is like this. He did that really well – much better than me.”

After Paris Federer went on to lose in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, leading some to question whether, as he approaches his 29th birthday, the best days of his career had passed.

But now, in the familiar territory of a US Open semi-final – he has won 45 of his last 46 matches in New York, losing to Juan Martin del Potro in last year’s final – the Swiss is once again the man to beat.

That is something Novak Djokovic hasn’t managed at four times of asking. The Serb – a 7-6(2) 6-1 6-2 victor over Gael Monfils – has lost to Federer in each of his last three US Open campaigns, in the 2007 final and the last four in 2008 and 2009.

“He’s a great champion, of course, a great player, but you never know what’s going to happen,” said the 2008 Australian Open champion. “I don’t want to think about those losses in the last three years, which were really, really close.”

Monfils had briefly led during the first set, but had no answer to the blustery conditions as his challenge petered out.

“The thing is that with the wind you can really find my weakness – for me, it’s really hard to play with wind,” said the Frenchman.

“I’m very physical and speedy. Sometimes for me it was very frustrating as I cannot use any skill. I can just try to push the ball and deal with it. But I think at that time the talent for play in the wind, I don’t have that yet.”

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