Djokovic Topples Federer To Meet Nadal

US Open 2010
By Hiland Doolittle, September 12th, 2010
Djokovic Topples Federer To Meet Nadal

Djokovic Topples Federer To Meet Nadal

The intensity outweighed the wind on Saturday afternoon as the Flushing Meadows crowd was treated to 3 hours 44 minutes of bruising, gut-wrenching tennis. The tension was thick, the stakes were high and each shot felt like an explosion as the third seeded Novak Djokovic found his composure just in time to finally defeat Roger Federer in the U.S. Open.

The year’s most boisterous crowd embraced this match as they have no other this entire tennis season. Novak Djokovic finally put all the pieces of the puzzle together and ran the table on the ageless Federer 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.

Djokovic has been moving between the second and third ranking position most of the year. Saturday’s win may well be the signature win the 23-year old Serb needed to be in the discussion about the top spot.

On Sunday Djokovic will face Spaniard Rafa Nadal, who decimated Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in just over two hours. Nadal is poised to become the sixth player to accomplish a career Grand Slam with a win on Sunday.

The level of play between Federer and Djokovic will be difficult to surpass. Federer has adopted a more aggressive style of play that has been successful for the Swiss. That conversion looked brilliant at times but is difficult to sustain for five sets.

The second seed fired 48 winners but also struck an uncharacteristically high 66 unforced errors. Many of those errors came from his baseline forehand while others were caused because he sometimes pressed play so ferociously that he was caught in no man’s land. To make matters worse, Roger only landed 53% of his first serves.

By comparison, Djokovic struck 36 winners and committed 38 unforced errors. Djokovic’s decisive second and fourth set wins created the impression that Federer was on the defensive with his finger in the dam. If he flinched, the flood of Djokovic points could ensue.

The telling game of the match came with Djokovic serving in the tenth game of the final set trailing 4-5. The situation was similar to the position he was in at the end of the first and third sets. In the fifth set, Federer again rode the wave of crowd support to gain the 15/40 edge. It seemed Roger would once again deny the Serb his place in the finals.

This time, Djokovic knew what to expect. The Serb seemingly blocked out the distractions and took charge. This time Djokovic showed the maturity he needs to reach the Nadal level.

Facing double match point, Djokovic executed a swinging half-court volley to get to 30/40 and then unleashed a powerful down-the-line forehand drive that got him back to deuce.

After Djokovic served out the key tenth game, Federer seemed emotionally spent. Novak jumped on Federer’s next service game, breaking with little resistance.

The Swiss rallied one more time at 5-6 to gain the 30/40 advantage but a more composed Djokovic had the answer once again. On Djokovic’s first and only match point, the players probed each other with pinpoint groundstrokes. After 21 shots, Federer blinked and Djokovic scored the biggest win of his career.

Nadal Toys With Youzhny

Rafeal Nadal

Rafeal Nadal

It was clear from the outset that this early afternoon match was going to be painful for the Russian. Rafa Nadal is playing the best tennis of his young career and he continues to improve his mechanics as well as his strategic maneuvers.

The top seed is playing with purpose. A win at the Open would make him just the sixth player to achieve a career Grand Slam but would also make him the second youngest player to accomplish the feat.

The rivalry between Djokovic, Federer and Nadal has become so intense that it seems impossible to upset one of the big three in a major. Mikhail Youzhny was a big underdog. Despite Youzhny’s courageous five set win against Stan Wawrinka in the quarters, Rafa was going to take care of business.

He Spaniard broke early in the first set and never looked back. Nadal has not lost a set in the competition and when Youzhny finally broke him in the third set, it was just his second loss of serve in a fortnight.

Nadal vs. Djokovic in Finals

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal need no introductions. Right now, they are the two best tennis players in the world. Outside the game, both players are engaging and humorous. Djokovic is fluent in five languages. They have traveled the world and on Sunday September 12th Flushing Meadows is the only place they want to be.

Djokovic and Nadal are experienced, talented and ferocious competitors. The players have met 21 times with Rafa winning 14 of the matches. However, Djokovic has won the last three times they have gone at it.

Nadal will be the strong favorite. He is the better athlete and more focused player. Basically, Rafa goes for the juggler. For Djokovic to win he must serve better than he did against Federer and he must stay close to the baseline to take advantage of any short balls.

The Serb will also have to be patient. Everything Nadal does is measured. He is slow to come from the locker room, slow to serve and ready to do whatever is necessary to disturb his opponent’s psyche.

Let’s face it. We can speculate all day about this match but it really boils down to which Novak Djokovic shows up on Sunday. If it is the sulking, distracted player that we have seen in big matches before, Nadal will win in a breeze. If a hungry Djokovic shows up, ready to do war for the second time in two days, he has a good chance to pull the upset.

Novak has the game. His serve is reliable and his groundstrokes have all the power he needs to upset the Spanish speedster. Djokovic sometimes starts slowly or has concentration problems in the middle of the match. None of that will do. He needs to come out fighting and he needs to stay the course through the last point. All the makings of a memorable match are in place. What a day!


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