Novak Djokovic has beaten Gael Monfils in a bizarre match 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-2, and will play Stan Wawrinka in the final after the Swiss knocked out Kei Nishikori, also in four sets.
Played in steamy hot conditions, Monfils was given a scathing assessment by many experts including ESPN commentator Chris Evert and Jean Gachassin, head of the French Tennis Federation for not putting enough effort in.
Even Djokovic wasn’t impressed, believed it belied the effort a player should give in a grand slam semifinal. “I thought at times that he was, you know, maybe behaving a little bit, for some terms and judgements, unacceptable. But again, I guess that was part of his tactics”, said Djokovic.
The popular Monfils, who is normally a crowd favourite with his ultra-athletic style of play, was even subject to boos by the Arthur Ashe crowd, something he wouldn’t be used to.
But Monfils defended himself after the match saying “I think I tried my best. The guy is too good I just had to change (the tactics). I think I’m gutsy to try that against the world no.1”.
Monfils may have a point because he did lull Djokovic and took the third set, completely against the run of play.
Monfils got to the last four without dropping a set but his performance in the first two sets was very poor. He hit 52 unforced errors including 11 double faults. He walked into returns like an injured player would and gave Djokovic easy points by moving to the net inexplicably.
Monfils then got hot all of a sudden and one five straight games to lead the third set 5-2. Djokovic was so furious at wasting three break points late in the set that he ripped his shirt.
But then it was the old Monfils again in the fourth set and Djokovic was through to another US Open final, his seventh, as he creeps ever closer to a 13th Major title — which would put him one behind Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras on the all-time list. Djokovic is now 13-0 against Monfils.
As for Wawrinka, he hit 10 aces and 38 winners in his 4-6 7-5 6-4 6-2 win over a tired Nishikori, who would have still been recovering from a physical five-setter against Andy Murray in the quarters.
Nishikori was sharp for the first two sets but the turning point was when Wawrinka saved a break point at 4-4 in the third. He would go on to win five games in a row to take control.
Wawrinka has peaked late in his career but boy has he cashed in when he has made it deep in majors, unlike Murray. Wawrinka is 2-0 in grand slam finals even though he was underdogs on both those occasions – 2014 Australian Open to Nadal and 2015 French Open to Djokovic.
Wawrinka, if he is engaged and stays strong mentally, has the weaponry and is one of the few players who can to hit through the court and past Djokovic’s imperious defence. Djokovic leads 19-4 in their overall meetings but Wawrinka’s wins have been on the biggest of stages. Added to that, Djokovic got attention on his shoulder in his semi and has been carrying lingering wrist and forearms complaints all tournament, so Wawrinka is definitely a chance.