And then there were four


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Andy Murray was hoping to become the fourth man since 1968 to reach all four Grand Slam finals in a calendar year before Kei Nishikori came along to crash the party. Roger Federer has done it thrice (06-07,09) and Novak Djokovic did it last year.

Murray led by two sets to one and seemed to be in command of the situation before rain forced the roof across. A lot of conditions change with the roof closed as against playing under no roof. Murray had faced a similar situation at Wimbledon in 2012 against Roger Federer. Murray had won the first set against Federer when the roof was closed due to rain. From there on, Federer did not give Murray a chance to bounce back. When the roof is closed, it impacts the wind, there is noise, it becomes hotter/more humid. Slowly, Murray started losing his composure and let the lead slip away. Before yesterday, Nishikori had beaten him only once in eight attempts but Nishikori did not let that stick to his head. In the fifth set, Murray broke Nishikori’s serve twice but in return Nishikori broke his serve thrice to close the match.

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Murray has had a very successful summer which has not exactly given him a lot of time to rejuvenate. Djokovic lost early at the Olympics and chose to skip Cincinnati before coming into the US Open and he has gotten plenty of rest during the tournament too. On the other hand, Murray won the Olympics and reached the finals at Cincinnati. A lot of tennis over the past couple of months with insufficient rest clubbed with Nishikori’s ability to dictate rallies when conditions favoured him led to Murray’s defeat in the Quarter-finals. Murray’s loss brings a sigh of relief for Djokovic, whose No. 1 ranking could have been under threat.

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In his Quarter-final match, Djokovic saw his third opponent retire in this tournament. Djokovic got a relatively easier draw and to top it, he has had to play just two complete matches to reach the semi-final of a Grand Slam. Djokovic has now reached the US Open semi-final for the 10th consecutive year. In his semi-final match, he plays Gael Monfils, who is playing in his first US Open semi-final and his second Grand Slam semi-final ever (First being 2008 French Open). Djokovic has a 12-0 Head to Head record against Monfils. Gael Monfils is having one of the best seasons of his career so far and is in contention for the Year End World Tour Finals. Though Djokovic is the favourite to win the match, Monfils is not playing to stereotype here. He is athletic and seems more focused this season. Monfils isn’t called the Prince of ‘legerdemain’, a French word that translates ‘light of hand’, for nothing.

Stan Wawrinka, of Switzerland, returns a shot to Fernando Verdasco, of Spain, during the first round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The match between Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin DelPotro, more of a contest between forehands and backhands turned out to be a treat to the spectators. In this age of topspin and defense, Delpo hits flat and attacks his opponents with it. Its less of swing and swipe and more of a slap shot. To counter this, Wawrinka used his astounding one handed backhand (the best in the game right now).

Wawrinka snapped a 4-match losing streak against Delpo to win the match in four sets. Delpo was ofcourse disappointed with the outcome but he put up a great fight and made his opponent earn every point. Wawrinka faces Nishikori next. A tough match again for both the players, and if at all, Djokovic beats Monfils comfortably, it will be an exhausted Wawrinka/Nishikori with a well-rested Djokovic. The odds couldn’t be worse for Wawrinka/Nishikori, but then matches have been won for less.


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