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Djokovic survives epic, set to face Nadal in final

ESPN staff
September 7, 2013
Novak Djokovic came through an exceptional match with Stanislas Wawrinka © Getty Images
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Novak Djokovic will get the chance to avenge his 2012 US Open final loss after defeating Stanislas Wawrinka 2-6 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3 6-4 in an epic semi-final at Flushing Meadows.

Wawrinka came firing out of the blocks in the first set, going up a double break with the same onslaught from the baseline that did for Andy Murray in their quarter-final.

Djokovic managed to earn a break back for 4-2, but Wawrinka immediately regained his advantage and served out the set.

The World No. 1 began to turn the screw in the second set, earning three break points at 2-1 but Wawrinka held firm and drew level.

Wawrinka continued to find the back of the court with forehand winners but failed to convert two break points before making it third time lucky.

The Swiss No. 2 oozed confidence and effortlessness as he held for 4-2. However Djokovic reeled off the next three games to put Wawrinka back under pressure, though he handled it with aplomb to tie the set.

The second set eventually went to a tiebreak, but this time it was Djokovic who captured the momentum to level the tie - letting out a huge roar to the Arthur Ashe crowd after several powerful returns.

If he was feeling pressure, Wawrinka certainly did not show it; with the first seven games going with serve, he finally found the advantage in the eighth when breaking his opponent to love.

Serving for the set, Wawrinka stumbled when 30-0 up but finally earned set point after Djokovic netted his return in culmination of a thrilling 35-stroke rally. When the Serb found the tape on the following exchange, Wawrinka edged ahead once more.

However, whatever elation Wawrinka had felt was soon replaced with anger at the start of the third; Djokovic responded immediately, breaking serve to move two games ahead following his opening hold.

Wawrinka slammed his racket down in rage before smashing it in two on return to his seat, earning himself a penalty point for his troubles. It got worse, though, as Djokovic calmly held his nerve to send the match into a decider.

Both held serve at the beginning of the fifth, before Wawrinka finally prevailed after 20 minutes and 12 deuces in his second service game.

However, it would be heartbreak in Wawrinka's next service game as a long forehand gave Djokovic the crucial break and impetus.

Djokovic sealed victory in classic style, sending down a huge ace on match point and moving a step closer to banishing the ghost of his defeat 12 months ago.

"Credit to my opponent for fighting until the end," Djokovic told CBS. "Stan played more aggressive and I had to hang in there and adjust and find my rhythm in this wind.

"But I am just so fortunate to be able to play my best tennis when I needed to. I guess everyone thought whoever won that game would win the match, so I realised I would have to fight even harder."

Rafael Nadal put an end to the run of Richard Gasquet, winning 6-4 7-6(1) 6-2 to reach the final.

The world No. 2 has yet to lose a match on a hard court in 2013 in 21 encounters, and is into his 18th grand slam final.

"I'm going to try my best to win on Monday. What makes the difference is to win the US Open...For me the only important thing is the US Open. That's the most important thing," Nadal said.

And on the tussle with Djokovic, the player he beat in 2010 to lift his one and only US Open, Nadal said: "It is good if both of us are playing at a very high level so the match becomes great because we play long rallies, we bring our game and it becomes a very difficult match for both of us," Nadal said. "I hope to be ready for that. I'm going to try. I need to keep playing very aggressive and play a very, very good match. Only like this I'm going to have a chance."

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