US Open semi-finals: Irony not lost as injury-hampered Novak Djokovic reaches last four

The Serb world No 1 is in the semi-finals, having played just two completed matches and a total of nine and a half sets at Flushing Meadows. Ahmed Rizvi looks at his chances as well as Gael Monfils, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka.
Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, looks towards the crowd after his match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, of France, during the quarter-finals of the US Open on Tuesday, September 6, 2016, in New York. Tsonga retired from the match due to injury at the start of the third set. Charles Krupa / AP Photo
Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, looks towards the crowd after his match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, of France, during the quarter-finals of the US Open on Tuesday, September 6, 2016, in New York. Tsonga retired from the match due to injury at the start of the third set. Charles Krupa / AP Photo

The irony is impossible to miss: Novak Djokovic arrived in New York looking vulnerable, nursing injuries to both his left wrist and right elbow. Now he is in the semi-finals, having played just two completed matches and a total of nine and a half sets. Ahmed Rizvi looks at his chances as well as the other three.

Three injured opponents

“You tell me what is going on … I don’t really know,” said Djokovic after quarter-final opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired with a knee injury when trailing 6-3, 6-2. He was the Serb’s third opponent to pull out. Starting his campaign with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 win over Jerzy Janowicz, Djokovic did not hit a ball in the second round as Jiri Vesely withdrew with a forearm injury. In Round 3, he was up 4-2 in the first set when Mikhail Youzhny retired with a leg injury. In the fourth round, he beat Kyle Edmund 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.

• Then there were four: Nishikori stuns Murray, Wawrinka powers past Del Potro to reach US Open semi-finals

Next up is humble Monfils

Djokovic has spent a mere 384 minutes on court in reaching the last four, but his semi-final opponent Gael Monfils says the lack of court-time will not be an issue for the reigning Australian and French Open champion. “It’s very hard to remember a match where he wasn’t hitting the ball clean,” Monfils said. “I think he’s a great champion. He’s a better player than me, definitely. I have no shame to say it.”

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Place in first final at stake

Djokovic has a 12-0 record against Monfils. But the Frenchman, appearing in his first major semi-final since the 2008 French Open, fancies his chances. “You can be the best, but one match is enough,” Monfils said.

• Ahmed Rizvi: For Rafael Nadal and his fans, nostalgia can be a cruel temptress: He’s lost his edge

Wawrinka has edge ...

The two opponents in the other semis, world No 3 Stan Wawrinka and No 7 Kei Nishikori, are a lot closer. Wawrinka, a two-time grand slam champion, leads the beaten 2014 US Open finalist 3-2 in head to heads. But Nishikori beat him in their most recent duel, the semi-final of the Canada Masters last month.

... but Nishikori’s spirits up

The Japanese comes in to the semis on the back of a morale-boosting five-set triumph over reigning Olympic and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray. Wawrinka’s highest-ranked opponent was No 46 Fernando Verdasco. Will Wawrinka and Djokovic set up a rematch of their 2015 French Open final? New Yorkers may prefer the latter.

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Published: September 8, 2016 04:00 AM

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