Photo: Paul ZimmerNovak Djokovic (SRB)
World no.1 Novak Djokovic remained on course for a second US Open title on Day 10 of the US Open with a 76(1) 67(1) 62 64 win over long-time rival Andy Murray.
Murray had won their only previous encounter at the US Open in a dramatic five-set 2012 final but could not repeat the success this time around. After splitting the first two sets in tiebreaks, it was Djokovic who scored a quick 62 third set and slammed the door shut on the Brit’s hopes, taking his only break point of the fourth set to clinch a place in his eighth consecutive US Open semifinal.
Last year’s runner-up was glad to get through the physical match, which at a set all, was already over two hours in length, “It was very physical. I'm happy that I managed to pull it through physically in the end and to kind of stay strong, even though it was frustrating in moments, because I don't think I played at a level that I wanted to play on in important moments. But, again, it's great to end it, because we always push each other to the limits and we push eachothers’ service games.”
Murray couldn’t hide his disappointment at the loss but was able to take positives from his battling display, “I was down in the first set and I fought back. I was down in the second set and a break and I fought back. So, you know, I fought hard. I played some good tennis. But, yeah, it wasn't enough.”
Djokovic will move into a semifinal meeting with Japan’s Kei Nishikori after the 10th seed caused a second five-set upset over a higher ranked player in his last two rounds.
After finally seeing off Milos Raonic at 2:26am on Tuesday morning in his fourth round, Nishikori silenced doubters of his physical abilities in resounding fashion to secure an even more impressive win over Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka 36 75 76(7) 67(5) 64. The 10th seed saved set point in the third set tiebreak with a blistering backhand down the line and eventually crossed the line to become the first Japanese Grand Slam semifinalist in Open Era history.
Nishikori, who didn’t get to sleep until 6am on Tuesday morning, took great satisfaction from his ability to replicate such a high level after so many hours on court, “Yesterday was, you know, my body was tight. I was a little bit tired yesterday, but today was almost, you know, not 100% but close to, you know, feeling pretty good my body. It's great for my confidence, you know, play two five-sets straight and a lot of 76 [tiebreaks].”
Wawrinka admitted his frustration at not being able to find his best performance level, “I was ready for the fight. I was ready to play. I'm a little bit disappointed with myself, with the level I had today. I don't think I played a great match. I think I was a little bit hesitating with my game. I didn't find a way to take control of the rhythm of the match big time because he was playing well, but I still think that I should maybe try something different. But it's tough.”
Day 10 also saw the completion of the women’s semifinal line-up with contrasting fortunes for Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams who have contested the last two finals.
Azarenka had started her quarterfinal with Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova brightly but after losing the first set and staving off early attacks on her serve in the second set, her opponent finally broke through and made it through to her first Grand Slam semifinal with a 64 62 win.
After losses in her previous four Grand Slam quarterfinals, Makarova found it hard to process making the last four in New York, “Well, it's not hit me yet, I think. I am feeling the same like the matches before. Of course I'm happy that I'm came through, finally through the quarters and I'm in semis now.”
After news had emerged that 16th seeded Azarenka had been taken ill the day before with food poisoning, the Belarusian was defiant in press, “I'm not going to make any excuses today. As I said, I did the best I could today. I want to give full credit to my opponent. She deserves to win. She played much better than me today. That's it.”
Williams had greater fortunes when she opened the night session on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Despite falling a double break behind at 0-3 in the first set, the American clinched 12 of the next 14 games to motor through 63 62 and confirm a semifinal meeting with Makarova.
Looking ahead to Makarova, the woman standing in her way of reaching an incredible eighth US Open final, the 17-time Grand Slam champion acknowledged the threat, “Makarova moves well. She doesn't care who she plays, she gives 100%. Those types of players are often difficult to play because it makes them better.”