Djokovic Reaches Seventh US Open Final
Top seed will go for his eighth title of the season
Novak Djokovic will play for his third US Open title after surviving a tight and sometimes bizarre semi-final match against Gael Monfils on Friday afternoon. The two-time US Open champion (2011, 2015) prevailed 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 on Arthur Ashe Stadium to reach his seventh US Open final.
Djokovic also extended his dominance over Monfils. The Serbian now leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 13-0. “It was a strange match, as it always is, I guess, when you play Gael, who is a very unpredictable player,” Djokovic said. “So it was a good win for me today.”
With the win, Djokovic has now reached seven of the past eight Grand Slam tournament finals, his only absence Wimbledon earlier this year when he fell in the third round to American Sam Querrey. The top seed will try to win the 13th Grand Slam title of his career and the eighth title of his 2016 on Sunday.
It wasn't easy getting through the tricky Monfils on Friday. Djokovic could not have envisioned a better start to the match. After 13 minutes, he led 4-0, mostly from putting the ball in play and letting a nervy Monfils make mistakes. The Frenchman would finish the first set with 16 unforced errors, including five double faults.
But with Djokovic serving at 5-1, Monfils changed his tactics and started slicing nearly everything back, electing to hit through the ball only when Djokovic approached the net. The change rattled Djokovic, who double faulted to get broken.
“I was completely caught off guard when he just stood there and chipped the ball back and didn't do much. If I would get to the net he would go for the passing shot and hit some impossible gets and balls,” Djokovic said.
Soon Monfils was back in the set at 5-3. “Why… stay and lose 6-0 and not change anything?” Monfils said. “Definitely, I try to get in his head. Try to create something new for him to see... When the guy is too good, playing clean and you're playing very bad... you need to change. At the end, that's why I think it was necessary, and I almost got back in the first set.”
But Djokovic restored order and had claimed the opener in 36 minutes. It was the first set Monfils had lost all tournament long in Flushing Meadows. He had been just the 10th player in the past 25 years to reach the US Open semi-finals without dropping a set.
In the second set, Djokovic upped his level. He won almost 90 per cent of his service points (16/18) and was perfect at the net (6/6). It looked as if he would cruise into the final in straight sets. “Everything was working,” Djokovic said.
But Monfils came alive in the third set, producing some of the tennis that had helped him win 15 consecutive sets in New York. The 30 year old also rallied the crowd behind him. After nailing a backhand winner at 2-2, “La Monf” let out a yell that had fans jumping to their feet.
Serving for the set at 5-3, he produced more excitement. Monfils fell behind 0/40 but crawled his way into the game and had a set point. Djokovic, upset at his missed opportunities, ripped his shirt before Monfils served on set point and crushed a backhand winner up the line to more cheers from the crowd.
“The momentum shifted. He felt his chance was there. He got it. Crowd got into it,” Djokovic said.
All of a sudden it seemed like the match could go the distance. Monfils, who had hit 27 unforced errors in the first two sets, had played more controlled tennis in the third, hitting only four unforced errors.
But the defending champion Djokovic quickly grabbed control of the fourth set, breaking to get to 4-2 and breaking once more – his eighth break of the match – to move into the final. “I just managed to hold my nerves and be patient and close out the match in good fashion,” Djokovic said.