Fish Guts A Tough Night Match Out

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – You have to wonder if Mardy Fish took some Roger Federer pills before tonight’s match, since he came out smoking against No. 15 seed Gilles Simon, winning the first set 6-1 and was up 2-0 in the second.

But this is Mardy Fish we are talking about so nothing is ever easy for the American – or the Federer pills wore off – and he needed four sets to finish off Simon, 6-1 5-7 7-6 6-3 to advance to the fourth round of the US Open.

Fish was looked sharp early and there were a few rumbles about Simon’s shoulder, which some of the French media said was injured.

But Simon found his second wind and fought fish tough in the second and third sets, while Fish ended up with 75 unforced errors in the match to Simon’s 31.

It made the match closer than it should have because of Simon’s apparent injury, but Fish seems to be hanging around. After a five setter in the second, he now has this gritty win under the lights.

With a 1:10 in the morning ending, it was 10 minutes away from going into the top 10 latest endings in US Open History.

Too bad the Federer pills wore off early.

 

Djokovic Wins Dogfight With Federer To Get To Finals

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Arthur Ashe Stadium was rocking in rumbling roars in anticipation of the first Roger vs. Rafa US Open final as Roger Federer stood one point away from the creating the most electrifying encounter in recent US Open history. Firing his forehand with ambition, Novak Djokovic stood up to the five-time champion and more than 20,000 screaming fans in pulling the plug on the Big Apple buzz with audacious shotmaking.

In a dramatic duel that saw tension escalate with each brilliant baseline exchange, Djokovic fought off two match points with successive scorching forehand winners in the 11th game of the final set then withstood a break point in the 12th game to subdue five-time champion Federer, 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 and advance to his first US Open final.

When Federer’s final forehand sailed wide, Djokovic stood wide-eyed on the court as if frozen in utter disbelief of completing his comeback and snapping Federer’s streak of six straight US Open finals. Thrusting his arms in triumph, Djokovic crossed himself, pressed his palms together as if in prayer then knelt down and kissed the court.

“It’s really hard to describe the feeling I have right now; 10 minutes ago I was a point from losing this match and now I managed to come back,” said Djokovic. “It’s one of those matches you will always remember in your career. I’m just so happy to be in the final.”

It is Djokovic’s second US Open final in the past four years, but he won’t have much time to celebrate. The 2007 runner-up will face World No. 1 Nadal in Sunday’s 4 p.m. final.

The top-seeded Spaniard stormed into his first Flushing Meadows final, overwhelming 12th-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in a two hour, 13-minute semifinal that started the day of play on Ashe Stadium.

Continuing his quest to complete the career Grand Slam and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in succession, Nadal may well be reveling in the fact he made quick work of Youzhny while Djokovic, who has been dogged by breathing issues, survived a physically-demanding five-setter with Federer.

“Having three sets match and two hours, or a little bit more, of the match always is great, no?  I gonna be in perfect conditions tomorrow, so that’s very positive,” Nadal said.  “We will see what happen.”

Given the fact Nadal has not surrendered a set so far, has only dropped serve twice in this tournament, owns a 14-7 career edge over Djokovic and Djokovic is coming off a a grueling semifinal with little turnaround time you might think the final could be as closely contested as an arm-wrestling match between the Incredible Hulk and Olivier Rochus.

The final is not a foregone conclusion though. Djokovic has won seven of 10 hard-court meetings with Nadal, including three in a row without dropping a set. Nadal’s last hard-court win over Djokovic was a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 triumph in the semifinals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It might sound borderline blasphemous to even suggest it, but could Djokovic, whose two-handed backhand is a more effective hard-court shot than Federer’s one-handed backhand, actually be better equipped to challenge Nadal on the US Open Deco Turf than 16-time Grand Slam champion Federer?

“When he’s playing well, probably (he) is the player who can play at high level for moments, no?  Because he can have winners from every part of the court.  He serve, when he’s serving well, help him a lot, because he can have very good serves,” Nadal said of Djokovic. “He’s a very difficult opponent for me, especially I had a lot of loses against him in this kind of surface.  I have victories, too, but I have loses.”

Djokovic’s recent US Open have been littered with a littany of loss all at the hands of Federer.

Down 15-30, Federer pulled out the slice forehand for the first time all day and moved forward behind that shot, slicing a sharp-angled backhand crosscourt to draw even. A scrambling Djokovic dug out a difficult running forehand to elicit the error and it was deuce. Two points later, Federer fired his 10th ace to take a 2-1 lead in the fifth set.

Deadlocked at deuce at 3-all, Djokovic was in control of the point and hit a backhand that landed on the line. The shot was incorrectly called out, chair umpire Enric Moline overruled, the point was replayed and Federer hit a service winner. On the second deuce, Federer fied a backhand down the line to open the court followed by an inside-out forehand winner for ad.  Djokovic was beyond ball boy territory, nine feet off the court when he made a spectaculaar get. Federer netted an open-court forehand to face another deuce.

After a fourth deuce, Federer held when Djokovic netted a return for 4-3.

In the eighth game, Federer was racing off the doubles alley aiming for an open area down the line. If he connected on the shot it would have been a sure winner and given Federer double-break point, but he flattened a backhand into the net near the Mercedes symbol and Djokovic dug out a difficult hold for 4-all.

More than two hours into the match, Djokovic, a man whose past questionable conditioning, breathing issues and willingness to tap out in major matches has haunted him, showed resilience in his spirt and spring in his step.

Storming the net, Djokovic deflected a series of reflex volleys then leaped to snap off an overhead winner for break point. He broke for 2-1 and quickly consolidated for 3-1.

A distracted Federer sprayed a backhand long as Djokovic earned double break point at 15-40. Federer fought off the first two break points, but did not move his feet and laced a backhand into the net to hand Djokovic a third break point. Cutting quickly to his right, Djokovic drilled a forehand pass down the line that ricocheted off Federer’s Wilson racquet and he trotted to the side line raising a clenched fist toward his parents, who leaped out of their seats in support, holding a 4-1 fourth-set lead.

Despite serving just 48% in the fourth set, Djokovic permitted only five points on serve to seize the set in 31 minutes.

The fight for the final would go the distance.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

After Win, Djokovic Challenges Johnny Mac

It’s not often a player gets more of a challenge from the broadcast booth. But that was precisely the case for Novak Djokovic, who had an easy go of it in a straight sets 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 Round of 16 triumph over No.15 veteran Radek Stepanek.

The same pair met a couple of years ago giving the crowd a lot more drama with Djokovic overcoming cramps to pull out a final set tiebreak en route to the final. But tonight was nothing like that match with the overlooked No.4 Serb having too much for an unsteady Stepanek.

In the lone competitive set, a perfect forehand topspin lob gave Nole a break of serve for 4-3. He managed to save one break point in the next game. Following a Stepanek hold that featured some nifty volleying skills, Djokovic crawled out of Love-30 taking the next four points to advance to a quarterfinal versus 10th seeded Fernando Verdasco, who bounced back from a set down to oust American John Isner in four 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Isner’s departure was historic because it marked the first time in U.S. Open history that no American male had made the quarterfinals. Pretty sad considering it’s been around since 1881.

At the conclusion of Djokovic’s win, he entertained the same audience he irked last year in a quarter win over Andy Roddick. This time, the chatty Serb while talking to ESPN’s Darren Cahill challenged John McEnroe to come down and hit with him. The hilarious confrontation which included Djokovic impersonating Johnny Mac’s serve and his infamous “You cannot be serious” quote at umpires will surely go down as one of the most classic things to happen at the Open.

Eventually, McEnroe who took off the tie made it down to courtside and did a funny imitation of his own pretending to serve like Djokovic bouncing the ball which got plenty of chuckles. They played three points with the popular four-time winner earning two points with what else but his crafty net skills which still looked pretty good.

If the moment is right, it comes spontaneously,” Djokovic later said after shaking hands with the idol. “I thought the moment was right. The crowd loved it, and that was the most important thing.

As for the real stuff, at least the Ashe Stadium capacity crowd got to see one superb match with No.9 Caroline Wozniacki coming back to edge former 2004 champ Svetlana Kuznetsova (6) 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3). Playing against the two-time slam winner including this year’s French, the 19 year-old from Denmark showed tremendous poise after getting outplayed in the first set.

Kuznetsova worked her from side to side slugging plenty of winners from all angles. The 24 year-old Russian was the aggressor throughout which might better explain how she wound up with over triple the winners (Kuznetsova-59, Wozniacki-16). But as often is the case when you go for more, the unforced errors can pile up and that’s exactly what happened in the second and third sets where she committed a large part of a match high 63 to her younger opponent’s 25.

Wozniacki’s consistency helped her stay in the match. When asked what turned it around by ESPN’s Brad Gilbert, the Dane indicated that she was more aggressive which didn’t allow Kuznetsova to dictate as much.

After taking the second breaker to level the match, she dropped serve falling behind 0-2 in the final set. But Kuznetsova’s level dropped allowing Wozniacki to claim the next three games. She was firmly in control after breaking for 5-3 but as often happens with an inexperienced player in such a big spot, the lanky teenager couldn’t close out Kuznetsova allowing her to get back on serve.

With the veteran serving to stay in the match, a running winner that finished off a scintillating point gave her match point. However, Kuznetsova showed why she’s won coming up with a deadly backhand winner down the line to erase it before holding. The former hitting pair in Eastbourne this past summer exchanged holds with Kuznetsova saving another match point with an ace to force a deciding breaker.

In it, a Kuznetsova double along with an unforced error handed Wozniacki a 3-0 double mini-break lead. But before you could blink, it was three all thanks to some great points by the Russian who found the angles.

Just when momentum seemed back on her side, she dropped the next point to go down 3-4. This time, Wozniacki won her two service points by playing steady while Kuznetsova misfired setting up three more match points.

With her first quarter berth on the line, she cashed in thanks to some great hustle running down a backhand in the corner to draw a Kuznetsova miss at the net. Pumped up, a smiling Wozniacki threw her hands in the air and tossed the racket before running up to get congrats.

She’s [Melanie Oudin] had an amazing run. Hopefully someone from the crowd will cheer for me,” cracked Wozniacki of her next opponent to cheers and laughter from Ashe spectators.

Whoever wins their quarter will be favored to make their first ever final with Kateryna Bondarenko and Yanina Wickmayer vying for the other spot in a top half that’s seen higher seeds go by the wayside with Oudin responsible for three Russians (No.4 Elena Dementieva, No.29 Maria Sharapova & No.13 Nadia Petrova).

With her win tonight, Wozniacki eliminated the last remaining Russian in either men’s or women’s draws meaning that for the first time in quite a while, not one player from Russia made the quarters. In fact, every single win by the 17 year-old from Atlanta, Georgia has come at the expense of Russia with her posting her first Open win back in Round One over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

“She’s on a roll. And she has nothing to lose,” pointed out Petrova after letting it slip away. “She goes, enjoys it, crowd is behind her. She’s just having a blast out there.”

“This,” Oudin said, “is what I’ve wanted forever.”