Federer Stunned By Berdych

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – To paraphrase the late Howard Cosell: “Down goes Federer! Down Goes Federer!”

A shocker in the Men’s Quarterfinal saw Czech Tomas Berdych beat No. 1 seed Roger Federer in four sets  7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

For the first time since 2003, the Maestro will not be in the US Open Semifinal and went home pretty unhappy to say the least.

“I’m sure it was a combination of many things,” Federer said.  “I mean, obviously I rarely go through matches where I have no chances, you know.

“So obviously I missed some tonight again, but that’s normal.  When you end up losing at the end, you know, you always hope that you made every chance you had.  It’s just not possible.

“He probably created more than I did, and that’s why he ended up winning tonight.”

It could have been the extra rest Federer received when Mardy Fish pulled out of the Open on Monday that ruined his sharpness. Like a pitcher, most tennis players tend to like the regular rhythm of a tournament, but the Swiss Master was forced to sit out Monday’s match when he received a walkover.

Federer though didn’t use that as an excuse.

“I have been there before,” he said.  “Once I had six‑and‑a‑half days off and I ended up winning Wimbledon.  I don’t think this was the issue tonight.”

Federer looked off from the outset, after electing to receive in the coin toss, was put on his heels by Berdych, who blew the Maestro away in the tiebreaker 6-1 and broke Federer early in the second set.

Only late in the second did Federer look like the Maestro, but down two breaks was just too much for the Swiss Master and Berdych eventually was able to come through.

But then the third set came and Federer was able to break Berdych and take the set rather easily.

“I still was down two sets to one, so I wasn’t celebrating too much,” he said. “It was good.  The momentum switch no doubt gave me a chance, put the score back to zero, put him further away from winning, and made the match go longer, make it more physical, more mental.

“Yeah, so obviously I was excited winning the third, but the problem was the first couple of sets ‑ particularly the first one.”

At that point it looked like Federer was going to paint another masterpiece, but Berdych was able to break him in the middle of the fourth to end it quickly for the Master.

“The fourth set all of a sudden ended quickly,” Federer said.  “He played good the last couple of points on my serve I think at 30‑All.  But that’s always a danger with Tomas if you’re down in the score and he can take some chances.  He’s obviously a shot‑maker, so, yeah, it’s dangerous.

“I should never lose the first set.  But anyway, it happens.  Move on.”

It will be a very different Open now that both the biggest story in Andy Roddick and its biggest draw in Roger Federer are no longer playing.

It also gives Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray excellent chances to win the whole thing.


Radwanska and Kerber Ousted

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Oh those pesky Italian girls. What can we say?

Two major upsets from the ladies of the boot with both No. 2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 6 seed Angelique Kerber being ousted from the open by No. 20 seed Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani, respectively.

No. 2 seed Radwanska went down very easily, 6-1 6-4 to Vinci who was able to control the match from the outset.

“Yeah, I think I really had the worst day than other days before,” Radwanska said. “For sure I didn’t play that well as in the beginning of the tournament.  For sure, she was just better today, yeah.”

Radwanska was dominated by Vinci’s finesse and seemed to be able to combat anything the Polish player was able to send her way.

“She really mixes it up, a lot of slice, then suddenly hitting very well from the forehand side, then kick serve, dropshots, volleys as well, coming to the net,” Radwanska said. “It’s really tough because she really had an answer for everything today.”

Kerber, who beat Venus Williams the other night and was a Semifinalist last year, also had trouble with the No. 10 seed Errani, whose finesse was just more than enough for her German counterpart,

“I think I was trying to give my best, and it was very close and hard match also in the first set.  But, yeah, the balls from her were very difficult for me, and also the spin,” Kerber said.  “I just tried to be aggressive, but in the important moments she was better.  Yeah, I mean, she beat me and it’s okay.  I do everything I could do today.”

Both Radwanska and Kerber were considered favorites to move to at least the Quarterfinals and possibly playing next weekend. By losing in the fourth round, both players go home disappointed.



Zvonareva Goes To Finals After Darkening Sunshine

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It was fitting the clouds started to cover the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center after Vera Zvonareva whisked Caroline Wozniacki out of the tournament, because Sunshine set.

The Russian’s 6-4 6-3 win over the No. 1 seed raised a few eyebrows – especially the CBS executives who wanted to see the rising star in the finals – but it didn’t surprise the hardcore tennis fans, who saw Zvonareva lost to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon finals. Much like Wozniacki, she is also a rising star, who went from the 21st seed at Roland Garros to No. 7 here in Flushing.

“I always believe in myself,” Zvonareva said.  “I always believe I can beat anyone on the other side of the net if I’m able to play my best tennis.  There is nothing really changed for me, you know.  I know I’m not gonna play perfect tennis all the time, like most of the players, but that’s what we all trying to do.

“I know if I’m doing it, if I’m playing well, I can beat anyone.”

Today she proved just that. Controlling the match from the outset, the 26 year-old was able to break and then hold Wozniacki during the third game of the first set to easily cruse to a 6-4 win.  Zvonareva was able to control the match from the baseline, putting her younger opponent on heels, running from side to side, trying to track down balls.

“I think it’s the same probably as the previous match, very similar,” Zvonareva said. “It’s the right balance between being patient and being aggressive.  You know, with those windy conditions you have to play sometimes ugly, you know.  You don’t have to expect to play your best tennis.”

“That’s what I did well.  I was not expecting to play my best tennis, but, you know, I was trying to be patient when I needed, and step up when I got the chance.”

She got chances also early in the she when she went up a break, but Wozniacki broke back to show some fight. Yet, that game was the last the Pilot Pen winner won, as Zvonareva was able to break back and then serve for the win.

“She played a really good game, definitely,” Wozniacki said.  “You know, she was not missing a lot.  She was going for her shots.  Most things were going in.  You know, I had chances, and I don’t know, I made some mistakes today that I usually don’t do.

“Yeah, it was a tough day for me in the office, and unfortunately it was today.  That’s the way tennis is sometimes.”

Now Zvonareva will look for her first Grand Slam win by taking on Kim Clijsters tomorrow night. It will be a very interesting matchup as Clijsters is undefeated in Flushing Meadows since her comeback last year and leads the head to head matchup 5-2, but the two losses came this year. One at Wimbledon and then later this summer in Montreal.

“Any match with Kim will come down to the tough challenge, you know,” Zvonareva said.  “She’s a great mover on the court.  She has a lot of experience.  She won here last year.  You know, it’s going to be tough.  You know, we played a couple of matches for the past couple of months, but those matches are in the past.

“I will think about what worked the best for me, and I will try to take it with me tomorrow, and, you know, do it again.  Those things that didn’t work well for me, I tried to avoid them.  That’s it.”

And as for Wozniacki, it’s back to the drawing board for her Grand Slam, but as Annie once sung, “The sun will come out tomorrow.”

That means Sunshine as well.

All-Star Matchup In The Semis As Federer Takes On Djokovic

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – In a match where timely shotmaking turned the tide time after time, Roger Federer fittingly rocked the court-side clock with one final authoritative ace to cap a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 sweep of Robin Soderling and fly into the US Open final four for the seventh straight year. Continuing his quest to regain the US Open title he lost to Juan Martin del Potro last September, Federer will square off against Novak Djokovic in Saturday’s semifinals in their fourth consecutive Flushing Meadows clash.

It was a superlative serving performance from Federer, who ripped 18 aces and saved five of six break points in subduing Soderling. The fifth-seeded Swede had four break point chances at the outset of the match but could not convert and Federer picked up his serve considerably from that point forward.

“I think the serve was today the biggest key, because obviously he’s very famous for serving extremely accurate, extremely hard, over a long period of time,” Federer said. “That’s what makes him so hard to beat really. That wasn’t the case today.  He struggled to get the pace, the accuracy going, until midway through the third set when I think he started to hit it a bit better.  Then it was almost too late, really.”

The third-seeded Djokovic came to court with a dragon on his back, fire in his eyes and after an early mis-step found the swagger in his step in scorching a flat and floundering Gael Monfils, 7-6(2), 6-1, 6-2, to storm into the semifinals.

Hard court is Djokovic’s best surface. He can use his expansive reach to rip returns down the lines off both sides, he covers the court quickly and the speed of the Deco Turf adds some sting to his serve. Federer has won eight of his 12 meetings on hard court with Djokovic, but believes Djokovic is at his best on hard court.

“I think this kind of favors his play the most, kind of a faster hard court, because he can pick up some incredible balls, you know, half volley them, redirect them,” Federer said. “It helps maybe serve a bit more, and on the return he can, you know, zone in a bit, and all of a sudden he’s really tough to pass, you know, when he’s returning. That’s what makes him one of the best players in the game right now, and especially on this surface he’s obviously in the top 3 or 4.  That’s why he’s been able to play consistent here at the Open.  He’s obviously waiting for a breakthrough where he can win this title.”

Djokovic fell to Federer in the 2007 final and was victimized by Federer’s stupefying between-the-legs passing shot in last September’s semifinal. Djokovic said stylistically, the rivalry has not changed; he’s just hoping to reverse the result on Saturday.

“We do have more or less same game, you know.  Just maybe experience wise in my case I feel better now,” Djokovic said. “Physically I feel better than I did last year.  I feel stronger, faster on the court.  The conditions are quite different, so let’s see, you know.  Let’s see how this Saturday is gonna come out, you know, if we gonna have normal conditions or not.”

The second-seeded Swiss is 10-5 lifetime vs. Djokovic, including a 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 win in Toronto last month.

“Here we go again,” Federer said in anticipation of the latest installment of his rivalry with Djokovic. “He’s a great player. I got really lucky to get through there in Toronto and he’s obviously looking for the big break through here at the Open, so it’s gonna be a tough one.”

Though Federer has won nine of the 10 sets he’s played vs. Djokovic at the Open, the matches have typically been tightly-contested affairs, including the Swiss stylist’s 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 6-4 triumph in the 2007 final in which Federer fended off five set points in the first set and two set points in the second set, relying on his edge in experience, expertise in playing the the right shots on pivotal points, exceptional anticipation and a first serve that was sharpest in crucial stages to subdue the first Serbian man to contest major final.

Since his five-set win over Serbian Davis Cup teammate Viktor Troicki in the first round, the Djoker has won 12 consecutive sets and will enter the semifinals playing his best tennis of the tournament.

Opening the season by capturing his 16th career major championship in Melbourne in Australia, Federer suffered successive Grand Slam quarterfinal setbacks at Roland Garros and Wimbledon ending his reign in Paris and London and increasing speculation that Federer was more vulnerable in majors than ever.

On a drizzly day in June,  Soderling reigned a series of resounding winners across the red clay in overwhelming Federer, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the French Open quarterfinals to snap the World No. 1’s record streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals. It was Federer’s first loss before a Grand Slam semifinal in seven years, ending one of the most hallowed record streaks in tennis history.

Soderling could not reproduced that form tonight, in part because the wind wreaked havoc with his high ball toss and because he has little margin for error on his flat strokes.

“I didn’t put so many first serves in as I needed to because of the wind,” Soderling said. “It was tough for me. So I could have needed some more first serves. Maybe I would have played better then.”

The lanky Swede did not hit an ace until the third set. To his credit, Soderling did not give up the fight as Monfils did in today’s first quarterfinal against Djokovic. He began to center his shots more and when Federer missed the mark on an inside-out forehand, Soderling broke for 5-3 in the third set.

The two-time French Open finalist could not capitalize on the break, putting a forehand into net as Federer broke back for 4-5.

Down 15-30 Federer benefited from a Soderling error to draw even then lured the big man forward with a drop shot followed by a forehand volley that rattled Soderling’s Head racquet. For all his prodigious power from the backcourt, Soderling is almost clueless at times at net and he screamed in frustration at himself as Federer eventually worked out a hold for 5-all.

Summer started with a struggle for Federer, who followed his French Open demise with a Wimbledon quarterfinal loss to Tomas Berdych. But he’s crafted another late-summer resurgence in picking up his play after Labor Day and working toward a potential blockbuster final against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

“I think he’s playing great. Because he lost in the quarters of the French and in Wimbledon, some people think he’s more vulnerable than ever.  But I think he’s actually playing really well,” Djokovic said of Federer. “He played great in Toronto and Cincinnati, and he’s just loves this surface.  He loves this tournament.  He has won so many times. Obviously he’s a favorite.  But, you know, we played so many times, and mostly we played on this surface.  It’s no secret in each other’s game.  Just I will try to hold on, you know.  He always tries to put pressure on his opponent.  He’s very aggressive.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

The Djoker Is Not Foiled by the Great Fish Caper

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Mardy Fish reshaped his body and resculpted his game but couldn’t revise his past history with Novak Djokovic. Fish’s inspired run through this US Open Series came to a halt at the hands of Djokovic, who fried Fish, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 to advance to his sixth straight major quarterfinal at the US Open.

Worn out from a long summer in which he won back-to-back championships in Newport and Atlanta, producing a career-best 11-match winning streak in the process, and went on to reach the Cincinnati final, a flat Fish lacked both the energy and execution to pose problems for Djokovic.

“I tried to, you know, get to the net, tried to stay more, you know, be a little more aggressive towards the middle part of the match,” Fish said. “I had some chances.  I just didn’t execute, generally.  He played great.  He kicked my butt.  He played great.”

It was a match that was never much in doubt as Djokovic, who took the court with a 5-0 lifetime record against Fish, asserted his authority at the outset.

The third-seeded Serbian swept American wild card James Blake, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3, and wisely took the pro-Fish American crowd completely out of the match in surging out to a 4-1 lead.

Djokovic’s superior speed around the court and his ability to extend Fish in baseline exchanges were key components to the win. The 2007 US Open runner-up remains one of the best hard-court returners in the game and picked Fish apart in longer rallies.

“I was making him play an extra shot and I was using the court very well,” Djokovic said. “This (win) gives me a lot of confidence, definitely. It’s great to raise the level of my performance toward the end of the tournament. It’s been a great couple of years for me in New York so hopefully I can go on.”

Seeking his fourth consecutive trip to the US Open semifinals, Djokovic is a decided favorite against quarterfinal opponent Gael Monfils.

In an all-French fourth round meeting, the 17th-seeded Monfils broke Richard Gasquet mentally in scoring an entertaining 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 victory. Monfils saved a set point in the second set and roared back from a 3-5 deficit in the third set to send the fragile fellow Frenchman packing and become the first French quarterfinalist since Arnaud Clement in 2000.

“I tried to be very tough and hard with him, showing him that I’m the man and I’m the leader,” Monfils said of Gasquet. “So I think I try also to get him a bit in the head, to show him like I will be strong and he might hit a good shot, but it’s okay. For me it’s nothing. I will try to reach every ball and show him…if he come in I will be everywhere.”

The Djokovic-Monfils match pits two of the fastest, most charismatic, flamboyant and sometimes flakiest players in men’s tennis. They are two men who play as if empowered by the belief that no ball is beyond their reach which should create a highly entertaining match.

“Gael is very charismatic and very athletic,” Djokovic said. “He slides a lot and so do I so I guess there’s going to he a lot of sliding between him and me.”

Djokovic is 4-0 lifetime vs. Monfils, including a controversial 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(5), 0-6, 7-5 triumph in the 2005 US Open first round in which some spectators believed Djokovic resorted to gamesmanship in pulling a lengthy injury time out to rest and recover.

Their most recent encounter saw Djokovic outduel Monfils and silence the Parisian crowd in an explosively entertaining, 6-2, 5-7, 7-6(3), victory in the Paris Indoor final last November.

Master showman Monfils, who has entertained the New York City crowd with his electrifying shotmaking skills on the run, his expressiveness and even his impromptu post-match dance moves, is hoping he can work the crowd into a festive frenzy.

“I can get the crowd behind me,” Monfils said. “I know him perfectly. We had like always a tough match. And then, damn I had revenge to take it because he won against me at home in Bercy (Paris). So this time I hope to win.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

A Five-Set Classic Goes To Del Potro

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – There’s a new U.S. Open men’s champion. His name is Juan Martin Del Potro, who overcame a one set deficit against the game’s best, coming back to dethrone five-time winner Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 before an electrified Ashe Stadium in Flushing.

The first Argentine to win the Open since Guillermo Vilas (1977), who was in attendance for an epic four-plus hour match was at a loss for words after winning his first ever grand slam title.

“When I would have a dream, it was to win the U.S. Open, and the other one is to be like Roger. One is done,” an emotional del Potro told a cheering crowd during a nice on-court ceremony in which he also asked CBS’ Dick Enberg if he could speak in Spanish for all his special fans back home.

“Well, because my parents want to come watch the final and say, no, be there. Of course they are part of this moment. They believe in me a lot like my coaches. It’s a special moment for me, for my parents and my friends. This trophy is for these, too.”

The victory was extra special for the lanky 6-6 man who became the tallest player ever to win a major. Thanks to a huge game featuring a lethal forehand that did plenty of damage producing nearly 40 of his match best 57 winners, he finally got the better of his well accomplished opponent who was aiming for more history- trying to become the first player to win six consecutive Opens since Bill Tilden and also win three slams in a row in the same season since Rod Laver (1969).

All that stood in the way was Del Potro of the all-time slam champion adding more impressive accomplishments to his Hall of Fame career. From the outset, it looked like the world’s best was intent on making quick work of an opponent who nearly got him in a French Open semifinal before running out of gas in five sets.

“I got off to a pretty good start, and had things under control as well in the second set. I think that one cost me the match eventually. But I had many chances before that to make the difference,” Federer assessed.

“So it was tough luck today, but I you thought Juan Martin played great. I thought he hung in there and gave himself chances, and in the end was the better man.”

Indeed, a sharp Federer came out smoking converting on his fifth break opportunity for an early 2-0 lead when he ran down a backhand from one side, steering Del Potro wide for a half volley before going full steam for an amazing running forehand cross which left the Argentine in disbelief.

A timid Del Potro struggled to get first serves in but finally got on the board for 1-3. Still, it was Federer who was more aggressive pinning the soon to be 21 year-old behind the baseline with precision hitting that also allowed him to finish points off at net where he had large success going 10 for 11 in the opening set.

“Yes, the beginning of the match I was so nervous, I can’t sleep last night. I don’t take a breakfast today. That’s part of the final, you know,” del Potro said.

“But Roger start very good. I start little down. I miss    I was bad with my serve, and that’s important weapon of my game. When I broke his serve for first time, I start to believe in my game. To change.”

Despite the slow start, Del Potro did exactly what he promised a day before after defeating Rafael Nadal by giving maximum effort every point. That kind of desire would be necessary if he was going to have a shot. In the sixth game, he fought off a break point then delivering a pair of aces to hold for 2-4. In the next game, he finally put pressure on Federer taking the first two points but the more experienced 28 year-0ld Swiss Maestro used a couple of big forehands to get out of the jam for 5-2.

It looked like Federer would finish off the set with a double break but again the feisty Del Potro saved three set points capturing the final five, holding with an ace to stay alive.

However, that didn’t deter Federer who still served it out with an ace out wide to take the set. History was on his side with the last 16 champions winning the first.

Things continued to look good for the reigning five-time champ who was handed the opening game of the second set due to four Del Potro miscues including two double faults.

Following a hold, Del Potro finally had his first looks at breaking Federer but the 15-time slam winner didn’t oblige dodging all three for 3-1. Somehow, he was still in comfortable position despite struggling on his serve like never before. For some reason, Federer missed a lot of first serves and was in the low 40’s yet hadn’t been broken, even throwing in double faults serving an uncharacteristic 11 to his younger foe’s six. Del Potro couldn’t make him pay but that eventually changed.

Del Potro nearly went down double break but held to hang around for 2-3. With his serve finally in gear, he began steadying from the baseline with his monster forehand and underrated backhand starting to turn the tide. Suddenly, he was getting looks at Roger’s serve but couldn’t cash in falling behind 3-5.

Following a love hold, things looked pretty dicey when Federer easily took the first two points serving for the second set. That’s when a desperate Del Potro stepped it up winning the next four points with some great hustle and unbelievable shots to get back even five all.

It began with an innocent backhand lob which a running Federer couldn’t save this time looking like he might try another tweener like the one versus Novak Djokovic that setup match point yesterday. Instead, his desperating lob floated long helped by Del Potro.

After he took the next point, the turning point came when a gliding Del Potro ripped a forehand down the line which initially was ruled out. He challenged and replays showed that it just caught the edge upsetting a stunned Federer who pointed to the mark thinking, ‘No way.’

Suddenly with break point and the crowd on his side, Del Potro rode the momentum with another great forehand pass pumping his fist to capitalize.

The set would need a tiebreaker. Never before had Federer dropped one in four previous tries in the final. But this time, Del Potro was a little better using a Federer forehand mishit for the only mini-break he’d need to go up 4-3. He then backed it up with forehand and backhand winners giving him three set points.

After Federer saved the first two on his serve, an inside out forehand gave a pumped up Del Potro the set.

“I thought I had him under control for the first two sets. I should never have lost so many chances. It was just a pity. I think if I win the second set, I’m in a great position to come through. Unfortunately, I didn’t win that and that was it,” Federer accurately pointed out.

With it all even, Del Potro continued to grow in confidence going for his shots willing to trade from the baseline. His forehand continued to get to Federer who was still having serving issues. Finally, the Argentine moved ahead 4-3 in the third set thanks to a huge forehand drawing a Federer miss which was followed by an emphatic yell from the underdog.

But as usually is the case, Federer broke right back flustering Del Potro who looked pretty mad at himself. Yet he stayed strong producing a ridiculous 110 mph forehand winner for another break chance but Federer dug out for 5-4.

The unpredictable set concluded with Del Potro having a rough 10th game with an unlucky net cord giving Federer Love-30. Following taking the next point, he fell apart with back-to-back doubles donating the set to Federer who by that point was antsy due to the chair umpire allowing a late challenge by Del Potro the previous game.

In the set, Federer held a 13-4 edge in winners while converting two of four break points to Del Potro’s one for three. He also finished off five of seven at the net where he went 66 percent (31 of 47) overall.

“Well, when I won the second set, I think if I continuing playing same way, maybe I have chance to win. But after, when I lost the third set, going to break up, I start to think bad things, you know,” del Potro analyzed while admitting to being very nervous when he threw in the doubles to fall behind adding:

“Yeah, but that moment I start to think the final, playing with Roger, the best player of the history, nothing to lose. And be two sets to one down, but I think, okay, you never lose until the last point, so keep fighting. The crowd help me, and they saw my fight in every point.

So I think that’s help me.”

Federer was just a set from more history but could Del Potro rebound? He proved to have plenty of ammunition left cracking another forehand winner to squeeze out of trouble for two all. The forehand barrage continued breaking Federer at love for 3-2.

“Big focus every time and good feeling with my forehand I think was the key of the match,” explained del Potro who continued using his biggest weapon to rain on the Federer Express.

One of the match’s highlights included a 21-stroke rally that a hustling Del Potro ended with a running forehand even high-fiving fans. But just when things seemed alright, Federer cameback with a service hold and then broke back for four all. He then held for his third straight game getting within a game of the trophy.

By this point, one thing was noticeable. Del Potro alternated his strategy opting not to go big on the serve instead spinning it in for a higher percentage which Federer surprisingly didn’t adjust on.

It had worked all set but a tight Del Potro ran into deep trouble losing two of the first three points in the critical 10th game to stay in the match. Only a couple of points from losing, he stepped it up big time taking the final three including a 131 mph ace along with a lethal winner for five all. That kind of guts allowed him to believe he could beat a player for the first time in seven tries.

“It was so difficult to keep trying to keep fighting. But one more time the crowd and the fans helped me a lot to fight until last point. I think I have to say thank you to everyone for that,” an appreciative del Potro said after winning his favorite slam he dreamed of winning as a kid.

The set would go to a breaker where once again, the younger player was a little better. Using a Federer double, he carried through forcing two errors to take it 7-4, forcing a deciding set for all the marbles. The first time that had occurred since 1999 when Andre Agassi defeated Todd Martin.

“Well, if I lose the fourth set tiebreak I lose the match. I did unbelievable points. I was focused every time trying to think on the point, and that’s it,” noted del Potro after finishing with one more winner (57-56) and two fewer errors (60-62) in a closely fought final that saw him hold an eight point edge in total points (180-172).

Who had more left? Surprisingly, it was the youngster who played a superior set breaking Federer in the second game with another forehand pass pumping his fists.

Federer tried to comeback but a determined Del Potro fought off break chances to jump out to a 3-0 lead. One of the reasons he prevailed was how tough he was at crucial moments saving 17 of 22 break points while converting five of 15.

Not a whole a lot. I just thought he was more consistent throughout. You know, I mean, he played pretty much the same,” said Federer on the difference.

A weary Federer misfired from the baseline committing 15 of 62 unforced errors in a set similar to the one he played against Nadal at the beginning of the year in Australia. Meanwhile, a confident Del Potro continued to apply pressure dictating points with his huge groundstrokes. Somehow, he was deadly accurate only giving away four points by comparison.

When he easily held for 5-2, the crowd sensed what was about to happen. A changing of the guard was taking place. For five years, Federer had owned the place never even needing a final set to defeat five different players off an impressive list that included Lleyton Hewitt (2004-straights, 2 bagels), Andre Agassi (2005-4 sets), Andy Roddick (2006-4 sets), Djokovic (2007-straights) and Andy Murray (2008-straights). Before tonight, he’d dropped just two sets during that incredible run.

“Maybe I look back and have some regrets about it,” said Federer who kept it in proper perspective realizing how special it’s been. “But, you know, you can’t have them all and can’t always play your best.”

Of course, the great champ didn’t go down without a fight saving two championship points in the eighth game. But his 11th double prevented him from holding to at least force Del Potro to serve for it. Following an errant Federer forehand, Del Potro went for the kill ripping a deep forehand which even one of the greatest defenders couldn’t keep in sending a backhand prayer long to finally hand the championship over.

A stunned Del Potro dropped to the ground on his back in disbelief. He’d just done something no one else had beating both Nadal and Federer to win his first ever career slam.

“Well, when I lay down to the floor, many things come to my mind. First my family and my friends and everything. I don’t know how I can explain, because it’s my dream. My dream done. It’s over. I will go home with a trophy, and it’s my best sensation ever in my life,” a thrilled Del Potro stated.

“Yeah, I mean, this one I think is easy to get over just because I’ve had the most amazing summer,” Federer added after seeing his 40-match Open win streak halted.

“I tried everything, you know. Didn’t work. I missed chances. He played well and in the end it was a tough fifth set. It’s acceptable. But life goes on. No problem.”

For Del Potro who turns 21 September 23, this was the icing on the cake. Well, cheesecake since that’s what he hinted he’d have later in eight days.

“Yeah, of course. Beat Roger for first time here in my favorite Grand Slam, and two sets to one down, everything, I think it’s the best final ever in my life, of course.”

What could be better than to rule New York? He’s on top of the world.

Federer Makes Another Open Final

Is there anything Roger Federer can’t do with a racket? They don’t call the men’s grand slam record holder The Maestro for nothing.

In advancing to another U.S. Open final where he’ll meet sixth seeded Juan Martin Del Potro for a chance to match Bill Tilden’s six consecutive titles, the world’s top player pulled out all the stops in an ultra competitive straight sets 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5 win over a game fourth seeded Serb Novak Djokovic at Ashe this evening.

Sure. Djokovic pushed him by playing a very good match. Unfortunately, his best wasn’t enough to even get a set as Federer eliminated him a third consecutive year.

If all the talk centered around Serena Williams’ meltdown last night, at least it should be much more positive following Federer’s latest bag of tricks helping him get through in three against the former 2007 runner-up who he defeated.

Not much separated the two but Federer was just better on the bigger points coming back from a break to take a first set tiebreaker, clinching it with an easy putaway at the net.

In the opening set, the two players exchanged breaks in the sixth and seventh games with Djokovic unable to cement it playing a poor game in which his forehand let down frustrating the 22 year-old Serbian. He also would miss a routine backhand to go mini-break down at 2-4 which allowed a shaky Federer off the hook.

“Um, well I thought conditions were tough. It was sunny in the beginning from the one end. Hopefully the same thing tomorrow, you know, sunny,” the 15-time slam winner indicated.

“Then it got really gusty, and I think we both struggled early on with our rhythm. I think towards the end of the sets, you know, I got in some good returns, and that allowed me then to actually go after my shots a bit more.”

The second set was better with each combatant going stroke for stroke as they protected their serves. Djokovic did well from the baseline drawing some errors. But Federer hung in there with his serve finally up to speed. At the outset, the 28 year-old from Switzerland couldn’t make a first serve but that changes as the match went on with him near 60 percent while winning 78 percent (49 of 63). Djokovic also did well serving and winning at 68 percent on firsts.

Serving first, Federer kept the pressure on Nole by holding turning it into a similar match as his quarter win over Robin Soderling. The five-time reigning champ fared well at net winning 17 of 20 points in the middle frame. For the match, he converted 81 percent (29 of 36) to Djokovic’s 45 (9 of 20).

When there was any slight opening, each stepped up to hold with Federer holding for 6-5. Facing the prospect of another breaker, the opportunistic champion finally applied enough pressure on Djokovic’s serve to break for the second set. After he valiantly saved two break points, Nole couldn’t avoid the third thanks to some clutch shots from Federer.

First, a forehand winner got it back to Deuce. Then, with Djokovic looking to have the key point won at net, somehow he ran down a volley stabbing a low slice backhand which a stunned Djokovic netted. With the crowd urging on the underdog, there was little they could do when during a rally, Federer found the angle cracking his signature forehand down the line for a two set lead letting out an emphatic scream.

In grand slam history, Federer had never blown a two set lead. To his credit, Djokovic didn’t give up fighting hard in an entertaining third set that saw some splendid rallies including a 23 stroke one that the taller Serb ended with a forehand smack on the line which he successfully won on a challenge. If he didn’t win on the scoreboard, he certainly had much better success going six for seven on challenges with the end result of that rally resulting in grins on both players.

There also was an amazing point where Djokovic played great defense at the net continuing to get back half a dozen volleys before Federer closed with a forehand pass which the charismatic Serb bowed in the opposite direction to get out of the way.

“I’m kind of player who likes the emotions and very temperamental on the court. You didn’t see a lot of racquet throwing, but it could have been a lot    a lot    today, especially because I knew that I was so close of winning all three sets, and then just a couple of points decided, you know,” Djokovic remarked.

“But if you ask me if I had fun today and enjoy it, yes, I did, absolutely.”

Indeed, a player who lost the fans last year following mistimed remarks after a quarter win over Andy Roddick won them back with how he conducted himself. Though he probably wished ‘tennis partner’ John McEnroe was back out on the court instead of Federer.

“I had the feeling that I was close all three sets, and it’s just that when I get close, when I am able to get to the breakpoints or I’m up a break, I just start making some unforced errors,” lamented Djokovic.

“And I don’t want to mention the word luck, but I didn’t have it today. That’s why I’m a little bit disappointed.”

Each player fought hard in another tight set with both saving break points including a pair Djokovic saved that would’ve given Federer 5-3 and a chance to serve for it.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t push it to a tiebreak with the Sampras-like Federer finally getting him again in the 12th game breaking him at love.

It was how he got to match point that was most impressive. Already up Love-30, Federer hustled down a Djokovic lob volley and pulled off the shot of the tournament going to a between the legs winner which sailed by a shocked Djokovic who could only smile for triple match point to a thunderous ovation.

The shot even amazed the winner who when asked about it by CBS’ Mary Joe Fernandez, referred to it as “the greatest shot I’ve ever hit,” to chuckles.

“He just gets on the court and he wants to play his best and win more. That’s what makes him even more dangerous. That’s why he plays even better,” Djokovic said while alluding to the record and Federer’s recent marriage to Mirka and the twins as settling him down.

“Look, I mean, I think I’ve always been pretty relaxed on the court, just because, you know, I don’t get too crazy anymore about great shots, bad shots, because I know I have so many more points and games and matches to play in my life,” Federer replied while also acknowledging that Mirka’s pregnancy and the twins healthy made it easier.

Fittingly, he won with another nice shot punctuating it with a return forehand winner and a raise of the arms before Djokovic congratulated him as they shared a laugh about what had occurred.

“I mean, that shot that he hit, you saw the reaction of the crowd. I mean, what can I explain,” Djokovic added.

But it was funny, on these shots, you know, you just say, Well done; too good. What can you do?”

“You know, that’s not the goal here. You have to play smart,” Federer said.

“That’s why I still feel the pressure, but it just doesn’t show. I definitely enjoy tennis so much that I think that’s what gives me that sense of calm really, I think.”

With a career grand slam and the record in his hip pocket, Federer now can take aim at matching Tilden when he takes on his sixth different opponent in Del Potro tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM on CBS.

“It will be absolutely amazing. It’s something I wasn’t able to do in Wimbledon, even though I was so close. So I hope things go well for me. I’m feeling great. I really hope I can do it.”

Nole Through to Semis

It was a battle but in the end, Novak Djokovic got through to the semis in four sets by eliminating 10th seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (2), 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 over on Ashe Stadium this afternoon.

Known by the nickname Nole, the No.4 seeded Serb struggled at times with his forehand spraying more than half his 41 unforced errors. But when push came to shove, the 2007 U.S. Open runner-up was up to the challenge against the dangerous lefty Verdasco- advancing to a third consecutive semi in Flushing where he could meet five-time reigning champ Roger Federer.

“Well, it feels great. I mean, I haven’t done that in the past three Grand Slams this year, so mentally was very important for me to overcome today’s challenge and to be able to win quarterfinals and to get to the semifinals first time in the Grand Slams in 2009,” said a very pleased Djokovic.

“So now that I’ve done it I feel kind of a relief, and I hope I just can continue playing well and challenge eventually Federer if he gets to the semifinal.”

At the outset, both players started slowly with each making uncharacteristic miscues in a weary set which kept the crowd fairly quiet. There were no breaks of serve but Djokovic nearly cracked late when he played a loose game giving Verdasco two break chances. However, the 22 year-old former 2008 Australian champion withstood it to hold.

Predictably, it went to a tiebreaker where Djokovic came to life forcing errors from Verdasco to cruise 7-2 for a set lead.

“Yeah, I don’t think we had a great first set. First set quality of the match wasn’t its best. I’ve made a lot of unforced errors, he’s made a lot of unforced errors, and I was lucky to get through in the tiebreak,” the winner admitted.

Before he could get too comfortable, it was his older 25 year-old opponent who quickly turned it around by picking up the pace in an easy second set that started with a break for 2-1 thanks to consecutive winners from the backhand and forehand.

Suddenly, Djokovic’s game went off as his forehand continued to fail while Verdasco was producing great tennis using his big forehand to open up the court and crack many of his 46 winners. Hitting a cleaner ball, he was able to dictate play even taking advantage by finishing a few points at net.

With the 2009 Australian Open semifinalist on his game, Djokovic struggled mightily having his serve broken three times in the uncompetitive 34-minute set which leveled the match.

“He stepped it in. He played very aggressive, and he deserved that second set,” Nole assessed.

With it hanging in the balance, it setup a seesaw third set which had a bit of everything. A now warmed up Verdasco continued to go for more forcing Djokovic into extended rallies that made for some more entertaining tennis. Pushed even more, the higher seed upped the ante going shot for shot from one side of the court to the other as each played great defense.

Due to how competitive the points were, the players each traded service breaks in the middle of the set. With Djokovic pressing for another break, a feisty Verdasco battled back from Love-30 down, reeling off the next four points thanks to his forehand where he ripped a couple of clean winners down the line holding for 4-3. Obviously frustrated, Nole stared at his box during the changeover muttering to himself.

“The dangerous thing about Verdasco is to let him take over the control of the match, because he’s physically very strong and he’s able to do a lot of things, especially from his forehand side, as we could see today. He improved a lot his backhand, so he stays much closer to the line,” explained Djokovic of why it was so tricky.

Instead of letting the moment get to him, he remained focused turning up a serve which allowed the Serb to save 10 of 14 break points including a few in the pivotal third. Djokovic got plenty of first serves in doing well by winning 71 percent of the points (66 of 93), also mixing in a few timely aces which he doubled up Verdasco in 10-5.

Ultimately, Verdasco tightened up with the 11th game proving costly. Close to holding for 6-5, he missed an easy forehand volley pushing it way out. A pair of double faults and another error donated the crucial game to Djokovic, who pumped his fists letting out a yell to his corner.

He then closed it out to pull within a set of a possible semifinal rematch with Federer pending his quarterfinal versus Robin Soderling later tonight which follows the highly anticipated women’s quarter between American teen sensation Melanie Oudin and ninth seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki.

With momentum, Djokovic continued to play steadier and headier tennis letting his wilting opponent self destruct. Nursing an abdominal strain which he was treated for in the fourth set, Verdasco began trying to end points earlier. But with Nole continuing to play solid D and get balls back drawing wild misses from the flustered Spaniard.

In particular, Fernando’s forehand went off which explained 17 more miscues (58) than the more consistent Djokovic. He also struggled with his serve often missing the first while tossing eight doubles which allowed the No.4 player to gain even more confidence.

“He likes when the ball is coming a bit slower to him so he can, you know, do more things with it. That’s why I tried to mix up the pace, you know, play some high balls and then fast balls to his forehand and try to just get him out of that comfort zone that he got in in the second set. I managed to do that,” Djokovic added.

He finally finished off his ailing opponent breaking twice for a 5-1 cushion. Following a Verdasco hold, Djokovic served it out at love finishing him off at the net as the two exhanged hands.

“I managed to come back, and that’s what it matters. You know, I just tried to focus myself in the third set and work on some things. I returned more balls in on his serves, and I think serving well was as well one of the key elements in today’s win.”