New York - Rafael Nadal cruised into the US Open final with a 21-match
hardcourt unbeaten streak Saturday while world number one Novak Djokovic had to
withstand a five-set, limit-testing struggle to join him.
Second-ranked Spaniard Nadal, whose 12 Grand Slam titles include the 2010 US
Open, routed French eighth seed Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), 6-2, to reach
his third final in four years. Nadal missed the 2012 event with knee injuries.
"Just amazing," Nadal said. "After what happened last year,
to have the chance to play in the final on Monday is a dream for me. It has
been two amazing weeks for me."
Serbian six-time major winner Djokovic outlasted Swiss ninth seed Stanislas
Wawrinka 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 after four hours and nine minutes to
reach his fourth US Open final in a row, fifth overall, and 12th Slam final.
Nadal leads Djokovic 21-15 in their personal rivalry, which will move past
John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl as the most-played matchup in the Open era.
Nadal won their most recent meetings in a five-set French Open semi-final
and last month's Montreal semi-finals and has split two US Open finals with
him, winning in 2010 to complete a career Grand Slam but losing a year later to
give Djokovic his first trophy on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts.
"Novak is an amazing competitor," Nadal said. "His results
say it. He's one of the best players I've ever seen.
"He's a great champion. It will be a tough final for me but I hope to
be ready for that."
Nadal dropped serve for the first time in the fourth game of the second set
of his semi-final, ending his streak of 73 held service games at the US Open
and a run of 88 in total stretching to the ATP Cincinnati Masters semi-finals.
But it was the only break Nadal surrendered, and when he overwhelmed the
Frenchman in the tie-breaker, it was clear he was in total command. He finished
after two hours and 21 minutes.
Nadal, who has won nine titles since ending a seven-month layoff to rest his
knees, denied Gasquet's bid to become the first Frenchman in a US Open final
since Cedric Pioline in 1993. It was his first Slam last-four since Wimbledon
For his part, Djokovic admitted that he was not even the best player on the
court for much of his match, but said he was able to raise his game when it
mattered most to subdue stubborn Wawrinka, in his first Grand Slam semi-final.
"It was obvious Stan played more aggressive. He played better
tennis," said Djokovic. "I was trying to hang in there, to adjust. It
was tough on both of us. I had to run a lot. I had to find my rhythm.
"I was just so fortunate to play my best tennis when I needed to."
An epic third game of the fifth set lasted 21 minutes, Wawrinka fighting off
five break points to hold for a 2-1 lead after 30 points, reaching deuce 12
The Swiss denied Djokovic break points with forehand, backhand and service
winners as well as two netted backhands by the Serb before closing out the game
on a service winner.
"I was thinking, 'Whoever wins this game is going to win this
match,'" said Djokovic. "After he won that game I was thinking, 'I
have to fight against those odds.'"
But Djokovic finally capitalised on his eighth break point of the last set
when Wawrinka swatted a backhand beyond the baseline to give him a 3-2 lead.
The reigning Australian Open champion had converted only 3-of-18 break
points up to that moment, but took the critical break and held the rest of the
way to advance, dropping Wawrinka to 0-13 against world number ones.
"It was a great tournament for me," Wawrinka said after his first
Grand Slam semi-final, a run that included his quarter-final ouster of
defending champion Andy Murray.
"Tough match to have lost. I gave everything."
The victory ensured Djokovic will stay atop the rankings after the US Open
no matter how he fares in the final.
Djokovic improved to 13-2 with his 11th victory in a row over Wawrinka, who
also pushed him to 12-10 in the fifth set in a fourth-round matchup at the
US Open results on Saturday (x denotes seeded player):
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI x9) 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) bt Richard Gasquet (FRA x8) 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), 6-2
Women's doubles final
Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka (CZE/CZE x5) bt Ashleigh Barty/Casey Dellacqua (AUS/AUS x8) 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 6-4