In two very contrast matches on Arthur Ashe Stadium on day 12 of the US Open, the contenders to win the final Grand Slam of the year were decided in the men’s singles department. In the first semi-final and a rather bizarre encounter, Novak Djokovic came out on top over Gael Monfils’ mind games and experimentation to book a place in the final – his third of four Slams this year.
In the second encounter, Stan Wawrinka beat Kei Nishikori in a contest that had both players fatigued by the rising humidity before the roof closed to some respite. However that didn’t help Nishikori’s cause who won the first set but couldn’t overpower Wawrinka’s mental toughness and solid groundstrokes from then on.
The final between the Serb and the Swiss will be played on Sunday with the women’s final between Karolina Pliskova and Angelique Kerber to be played on Saturday.
Wawrinka wins 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 and faces Novak Djokovic in the final
Kei Nishikori clawed his way back into the fourth set to make it 2-3 but Wawrinka had the edge to break right back and then hold his own to make it 5-2. Then with pressure and humidity mounting, Nishikori couldn’t hold his serve for the second straight time to hand Stan the match
Wawrinka jumps on Nishikori’s second serve and the Japanese can’t hold on to the deep return. BREAK! Stan up 2-0
Three break points for Stan
Wawrinka with strong returns and Nishikori can’t control the volley. Stan wins third set 6-4!
Uh-oh! Nishikori miscues his forehand and Stan has another chance to win the third set
Nishikori saves set point with a strong serve and then a putaway at the net. Deuce at 4-5
There is a delay as the roof is being closed at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Nishikori holds with a gorgeous forehand winner down the line. Wawrinka leads the third set 4-2
Stan with a strong inside-out forehand winner to hold serve. He leads 4-1
Wawrinka with an early break to take a 3-1 lead. Nishikori looks exhausted!
Nishikori sends his backhand into the net and Deuce
Break chances for Nishikori in the third game of the third set.
Nishikori sends his shot long and Wawrinka wins the second set 7-5. One set all!
Good confident hold by Wawrinka and Nishikori will once again serve to stay in the set at 5-6
Nishikori forces Wawrinka into an error. And it is 5-5
Nishikori with a great first serve to bring up game point for himself
Nishikori with a poor drop shot attempt which brings up the set point. Saved as Wawrinka’s backhand hits the top of the net but trickles inside his own court
Wawrinka gets out of a mess to hold serve. Saves two break points and he leads 5-4 in the second
Nishikori has another chance and once again the point is squandered by the Japanese player
Once again Stan goes down the tee on the serve to starve off that break chance
Wawrinka sends his forehand wide and Nishikori has a break chance
High octane stuff at the Flushing Meadows between these two. Both players moving side-to-side and pushing each other
Stan holds with two impressive shots and it remains on serve. 4-3 to the Swiss
Another long rally before Nishikori steps into the backhand for a winner. Another break chance. And saved once again with a big serve by Stan down the tee.
Second one saved two after Wawrinka’s backhand is into Nishikori’s shoelaces at the net. Deuce
Two break point chances for Kei at 3-3. One saved by Wawrinka after a wild forehand by the Japanese
Wawrinka with a big forehand down the line to break back. 2-2 in the second set
Nishikori’s forehand on the run gives Wawrinka the first break point chance of the match
Beautiful rally from the back of the court from both players. Nishikori moved to the side but gets back into the point and finishes it with a forehand winner. Holds his serve to consolidate the break and it is 2-0 in the second set
BREAK! Nishikori breaks Stan’s serve to open the second set. A glorious winner cross court past a helpless Stan
Nishikori gets out of the cage with a confident volley and then an ace to win first set 6-4
Wawrinka holds serve to make it 5-4 in favour of Nishikori. Kei to serve for the set
After a break the last time around, Wawrinka a convincing hold now – including three aces. Nishikori leads 4-3
Wawrinka with multiple errors – last a backhand into the net and Nishikori breaks. Leads 3-2
Things staying on serve in the first set in the second semi-final. Wawrinka up 2-1
Head-to-head: Wawrinka 3-2 Nishikori.
Question: How would you describe this match?
GAME SET MATCH NOVAK! He’s into the final with a 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win over Gael Monfils
Djokovic holds and he is four points from the Final. 5-2
Monfils sends his forehand into the net. And then the volley. BREAK! Three breaks in a row. 4-2 to Djo
Monfils survives! Djokovic can’t capitalise on a poor approach shot and then a tame smash.
Poor, poor volley by Monfils and Djokovic has a chance to break
Djokovic getting some attention to both his shoulders now.
DOUBLE FAULT AND BREAK! Monfils has things on serve in the fourth. 2-3
Djokovic’s attempted backhand cross court doesn’t clear the net and Monfils has two break chances
Monfils with an error at the wrong time to hand Djokovic to break. Serb leads 3-1 in the fourth set
Monfils, down 1-2 in the third, has asked for a Coca Cola!
Monfils is not comfortable but manages to save three break points to hold. 1-1
Helped by the let chord, Monfils brings up game point. And then serves a double. Ouch!
Monfils saves another break point and it is deuce.
Monfils looks either injured or fatigued. Not moving well. Manages to save two break points
Djokovic holds after saving a break point – helped by errors from Monfils. 1-0
Monfils with a monster backhand down the line after saving three break points to win set 6-3
Big second serve by Monfils and that’s another set point for him at 5-3
Good serve and it is deuce! Three break points saved by Monfils
Two saved – one more
Poor service game by Monfils. Djokovic has three break back points
Djokovic’s forehand hits the top of the net and that’s set point for Monfils.
Djokovic looked in a good position but losing multiple points at the net now. Deuce
Monfils with a strong service game and he’s now 5-2 up.
Djokovic with a mishit and Gael breaks! Out of nowhere Monfils leads 4-2!
Monfils sends the forehand return on the serve long. Another chance though
Now that’s what everyone wanted! Monfils with a backhand smash and brings up break point
Monfils gets on the board. But Djokovic leads 2-1
Only boos as Monfils serves a double fault and Djokovic breaks to open third set. 1-0
Mixed reaction from crowd. Jeers and some cheer for Monfils. Frenchman can only smile
GAME AND SET Djokovic! Gael tries to mix things up but doesn’t succeed. Novak wins set 6-2
Monfils holds serve after leading 40-0 and then 40-30. 5-2 now
Telling stat: 45% of points won by Djokovic have been errors by Monfils
Monfils sends backhand narrowly wide of the sideline and that’s second break to Djokovic. 4-1
Djokovic holds and leads 3-1 in the second set
Monfils shanks his volley into the net and break! Djokovic leads 2-1
Djokovic holds serve with a beautiful lob. 1-1 in the second set
Finally Djokovic holds serve and wins the first set 6-3. Serb led 5-0 and then… something happened.
Body serve by Djokovic on break point. Deuce.
Comfortable hold for Monfils at 40-15. Djokovic with another chance to serve for the set at 5-3
Double fault by Djokovic and Monfils breaks serve. Still 2-5 down. Odd game there
Djokovic clearly distracted. Missing an easy forehand down the line. Another break chance
Saved with a solid first serve that goes long
Djokovic losing his concentration. Double fault gives Monfils the first break chance
Bizarre by Monfils. Barely moving and still saving two set points. Standing inside the baseline for the first serves!
Monfils with three aces, one to save set point, to hold serve. He’s on the board. Djo 5-1
Finally Monfils doing well from the back of the court to counter the Djokovic cross court backhands.
Another break point for Djokovic – chance to bagel. But its saved with an ace. Third ace for Monfils. Deuce
Telling stats for Monfils:
First serve % in: 43%
Win % on 2nd serve: 13%
Unforced Errors: 10 (Djo 5)
Mishit by Monfils after pushing Djokovic and the Serbian is in command. Up 5-0 now
For second straight service game, Monfils hands break with a double fault. Djo up 4-0
Another chance though for Djokovic as Monfils sends forehand into the net
Break point once again for Djokovic but he sends the forehand wide. Deuce
Djokovic wants stadium lights switched off as it’s day time. Told they are for TV. “So TV is more important than the players,” says Djokovic
Comfortable hold for Djokovic and in just eight minutes the Serb leads 3-0
Two double faults by Monfils hand Djokovic the first break in the very first game
Djokovic with lovely hands at the net at 30-30 to finish off a volley.
Gael Monfils won the toss and he’s put Novak Djokovic in to serve first
Head-to-head: Djokovic 12-0 Monfils. In Slams: Djokovic 1-0 Monfils (US Open 2005, 2010; French Open 2006)
Djokovic: He’s only played for six and half hours and completed two of five matches – first instance in the Open Era
Monfils: His second semi-final appearance in Majors. He’s yet to drop a set so far (15-0)
Mixed doubles Final: Laura Siegemund/Mate Pavic beat CoCo Vandeweghe/Rajeev Ram 6-4, 6-4
Novak Djokovic’s opponent in the US Open semifinals, Gael Monfils, might just want to hole up somewhere safe until it’s time to walk out on the court in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Don’t practice too strenuously.
Let someone else carry the racket bag.
Be extra careful crossing busy streets in Manhattan.
It’s been hazardous to one’s health to get drawn to face Djokovic during this tournament: The defending champion and No. 1 seed has enjoyed an unprecedentedly easy path to the final four at Flushing Meadows, needing to complete only two of five matches because of injuries to three foes.
“This Grand Slam is very unique for me,” acknowledged Djokovic, who is in the U.S. Open semifinals for the 10th consecutive year. “I never experienced something like this – to have three retirements on the road to the semifinals.”
No one has. According to the ATP, it’s the first time in the Open era, which began in 1968, that a man only needed to win two match points to get this far at any of tennis’ four major tournaments.
“I can only wish all of my opponents a speedy recovery,” Djokovic said. “That’s all I can do on my end.”
True. It’s not his fault. Still, there certainly could be an advantage to only having to play a total of 84 games across a tad less than 6 hours so far.
Djokovic won a four-setter in the first round. But the player Djokovic was supposed to face in the second round, Jiri Vesely, pulled out of the U.S. Open a couple of hours before the match, citing a bad left arm. The man Djokovic met in the third round, Mikhail Youzhny, stopped after six games that took 31 minutes because of a strained left hamstring.
And after a three-set victory in the fourth round, Djokovic only needed to play two sets plus one point in the quarterfinals before Jo-Wilfried Tsonga called it a night because of a problem with his left knee.
Friday’s second semifinal will be between No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, a two-time major champion, and No. 6 Kei Nishikori, the 2014 runner-up in New York.
It shouldn’t be surprising that injuries would abound in the ninth month of a season that offers little chance for respite. The U.S. Open is the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, after all.
Even Djokovic has been dealing with health issues of his own. He developed a sore left wrist right before the start of the Rio Olympics in early August, losing in the first round there, then skipping the Cincinnati Masters.
Plus, something – he won’t say exactly what – has been going on with his right arm, which was massaged and manipulated by a trainer during the first and fourth rounds.
So the fluky way his U.S. Open has gone is a benefit, he figures.
Asked whether he had any concern about the lack of match competition over the past two weeks, Djokovic replied: “Not really.”
“Actually, in this stage of the season, considering some physical issues I have had in the last month, month and a half, this was the scenario that I needed and I wished for,” he said.
“I got a lot of days off and recovered my body. Right now I’m feeling very close to the peak. That’s the position where I want to be.”
That also sounds like bad news for the 10th-seeded Monfils, who has lost all 12 career matchups against Djokovic.
The Frenchman, who turned 30 last week, will be playing in the second Grand Slam semifinal of his career; the other was a loss at the 2008 French Open.
Djokovic, meanwhile, is seeking his 13th major championship, which would break a tie with Roy Emerson for fourth-most in tennis history among men, behind only Roger Federer with 17, and Pete Sampras and Rafael Nadal with 14 apiece.
When Djokovic completed his career Grand Slam at the French Open in June, it also gave him four major trophies in a row, something last accomplished nearly 50 years ago. His streak was stopped by a third-round loss at Wimbledon.
“What he’s doing is amazing,” said Monfils, who has won all 15 sets he’s played at Flushing Meadows this year. “He’s better player than me, definitely. I think I have no shame to say it. He is better than me.”