Djokovic advances after ‘strange match’
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.
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.