Djokovic ad­vances af­ter ‘strange match’

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Howard Fen­drich

NEW YORK — For quite a while, No­vak Djokovic’s op­po­nent in the U.S. Open semi­fi­nals, Gael Mon­fils, looked as if he didn’t want to win — or even be there at all.

That pre­med­i­tated “great strat­egy” of hop­ing to lull the No. 1 seed and de­fend­ing cham­pion into com­pla­cency, as Mon­fils de­scribed it later, worked briefly, yet did not pre­vent a two-set deficit. So he trans­formed back into his en­ter­tain­ing, ath­letic self. A sweat-soaked Djokovic sought help from a trainer for aches in both shoul­ders, and what was no con­test sud­denly be­came one.

Mon­fils forced a fourth set, and Djokovic ripped off his white shirt an­grily a la “The In­cred­i­ble Hulk.”

The ul­ti­mate out­come was only briefly in the bal­ance, though. Djokovic re­gained the up­per hand, as he so of­ten does, reach­ing his 21st Grand Slam fi­nal and sev­enth at the U.S. Open with an event­ful and, at times, bizarre 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 vic­tory over Mon- fils on Fri­day.

“Well, it was a strange match,” said Djokovic, in the un­der­state­ment of the tour­na­ment, “as it al­ways is, I guess, when you play Gael, who is a very un­pre­dictable player.”

In­stead of his usual crouch pre­par­ing to re­turn serves, Mon­fils ca­su­ally stood up­right at the base­line, look­ing like some­one wait­ing to place his take­out espresso or­der. Dur­ing points, Mon­fils would hit slices or make half­hearted, half-swing­ing strokes, then oc­ca­sion­ally wal­lop a 100 mph pass­ing shot.

The tac­tic was ef­fec­tive, for a short while, any­way.

“I was com­pletely caught off-guard,” Djokovic ac­knowl­edged.

Djokovic will try for his third U.S. Open ti­tle and 13th ma­jor tro­phy over­all against Stan Wawrinka, whose first fi­nal at Flush­ing Mead­ows came via a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 vic­tory over Kei Nishikori that lasted more than 3 hours. Djokovic has won19 of 23 pre­vi­ous meet­ings, but Wawrinka won their 2015 French Open fi­nal for his sec­ond Grand Slam ti­tle.

DARRON CUM­MINGS/AP

No­vak Djokovic, above, beat Gael Mon­fils 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 on Fri­day to ad­vance to his sev­enth U.S. Open Fi­nal.

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