Tennis

Djokovic sets up final with Murray

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will meet in Monday's final.
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Richard Evans

Richard Evans has covered tennis since the 1960s, reporting on more than 150 Grand Slams. He is author of 15 books, including the official history of the Davis Cup and the unofficial history of the modern game in "Open Tennis." Follow him on Twitter.

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NEW YORK

With no wind and the sun on his back, Novak Djokovic looked like a different player from the frustrated performer of the day before as he returned to Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday to demolish David Ferrer 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in the interrupted US Open semifinal.

Ferrer, the muscular little road runner who is a solid world No. 5 but can seemingly go no higher, only needed to hold serve at 5-2 in the first set to give himself a lead. But having accomplished that, no amount of sterling defense built on lunging returns and an ability to track down the Serb's most powerful shots could prevent him from being overwhelmed by the high-tempo excellence of the Djokovic machine.

The defending champion is an extraordinary athlete, as indeed are all the world's top dozen tennis players. The array of skills — mental, physical and technical — required to play tennis at this speed and with this power makes the case for this group being among the finest athletes on earth.

But the wind is not a respecter of reputations and Djokovic, who had been far more worried by Saturday's gale-force gusts than Ferrer, admitted that he had been glad to get off court. "I felt a different player today," Djokovic admitted. "It was brutal for all of us. You only had to see how many times Andy Murray and Thomas Berdych had to let the ball drop when serving to realize that it was bad. But it was worse than you imagined when you got out there. Ferrer coped with the conditions better than I did. He was handling it great, so it was a great relief to get it over with in four sets today."

Ferrer, the most amenable of men, was not complaining about his fate. "Every day is different," he said. "Today, Djokovic, he plays better than me, no? Yesterday with the wind I start really well, but finally he won."

No one was going to get any change out of Ferrer over the decision not to move their match to Louis Armstrong so that it could finish ahead of the storm. "I don't want to say nothing about this. The organization did what they think was better for the tournament."

Djokovic was equally reluctant to parcel out blame. "Moving the match was an option, but they didn't ask me. It's not on me to decide. Whatever (they) decide you have to accept."

His views on Super Saturday, however, were more forthright. "I'm not so sure about this Super Saturday, you know," said Djokovic. "I really hope that the tournament will consider changing things for next year. I think I'm not speaking in the name of myself only. I think most players will agree. Every Grand Slam has Friday/Sunday (for playing men's last two rounds). This is the only Grand Slam that has Super Saturday. Eventually playing back-to-back five sets with top rivals, top guys, yeah, I think that's ridiculous from the players' perspective."

Discussions have been ongoing between the USTA and host broadcasters CBS and ESPN, and it is possible the players will get their way although nothing has been decided yet.

Djokovic won't call himself the favorite for Monday's final, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET. He knows just how close his matches against Andy Murray have been in the past, especially the semifinal they played at the Australian Open in January. It lasted just short of five hours before Djokovic clinched it.

"I remember that match going five sets and the distance," he recalled. "It was difficult in both a physical and mental way. A lot of long rallies, and you couldn't really say who was going to win up to the last point. Most of our matches are very close, and that's to be expected in a way because we have similar games. We are big rivals and we have been in the top of the men's game for a long time so we know each other really well. So we'll see. Tomorrow I guess there is no clear favorite."

Djokovic leads Murray 8-6 in career meetings with Murray winning a dramatic semifinal at Wimbledon in the Olympic Games.

The Serb was quick to point out that their last meeting had been on a different surface, grass, but when asked what effect Ivan Lendl's coaching might have had on the Scot, added, "I think he's going for his shots more than he used to. That's something I guess he was looking for. Mentally, I think he is more aggressive in the court right now. Probably that's the only thing he was missing. He's one of the most complete players in the world right now. We all knew that he's definitely a contender to win a Grand Slam title any year in the last five years. Tomorrow, I guess he's going to be very motivated to win the title. But me, too."

Djokovic grinned and then recounted how the pair of them had watched Serbia play Scotland in the World Cup qualifiers before Murray's match on Saturday. "Yeah, 0-0," said Djokovic said with a wry smile. "We took the computer and we watched. We tried to be quiet but inside we were cheering for our own national teams!"

It will be the same on Monday afternoon with Serbs and Scots cheering for them and neutrals hoping for another classic duel.

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