Novak Djokovic last night fulfilled his ambition, preventing a dream US Open final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal by beating the Swiss in a thrilling semi-final at Flushing Meadows.
Djokovic recovered from two sets to one down and saved two match points in the decider to seal a 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 7-5 victory and deny Federer an amazing seventh consecutive final appearance in New York.
The 23-year-old Serbian had not reached a Grand Slam final since winning his sole title at the Australian Open in 2008, losing his previous four semi-finals - including two in the last two years here to Federer.
But he will now take on world number one Nadal in this afternoon’s final after Nadal beat Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets earlier in the day.
Nadal had the benefit of playing in the first semi-final and taking just two hours and 13 minutes to beat Youzhny before sitting back and watching Djokovic and Federer slug it out for three hours and 44 minutes.
Told rain was forecast for today, Djokovic laughed and said: “Really? I don’t know the rituals to invite the rain but an extra day would be great actually.
“I am tired, there’s no secret about that. For four sets I was quite okay but the fifth set was very intensive mentally and physically and took a lot out of me.
“But in the end it’s a remarkable win and I’m sure I will find the strength to give my best on the court. It was just a big pleasure playing in this kind of match, it is one of those you will always remember in your career and I am just so thrilled to be in the final.
“I was just closing my eyes and hitting the forehand as fast as I can on the match points. If it goes in, it goes in, if it goes out it’s another loss to Federer in the US Open. I was lucky and it was just a couple of points to decide the winner.
“I am very proud of myself.”
Speaking about facing Nadal, who needs to win to complete the career Grand Slam, Djokovic added: “It’s definitely going to be a tough one. Rafa is just playing fantastic tennis.
“He’s gonna be very motivated to win this title because it’s the only title he hasn’t won in majors.”
As for Federer, it is not the first time he has lost a match this year having held match points, and he said: “They all pretty much feel the same, they feel somewhat empty at the end because you have tried everything and maybe it was luck, maybe it was he played well.
“Maybe you didn’t pick the right shot, maybe he did.
“I can’t turn back time but he obviously had to come up come up with a couple of good shots on match point, so I don’t feel I have that many regrets in that regard.
“Obviously you feel like you left something out if you lose the match having had match point, but it wasn’t the final, so I’m not as disappointed as if it would have been the final. That’s the only positive news to enjoy anything out of it.
“I wish I could say he only hit winners to get back and whatever and I played my very best tennis, but it wasn’t the case. It was just a case of a tough situation to be in for both of us, and someone has to win. It’s just the way it is, there’s no draws in our sport.
“Obviously I like to see a match like this having two winners, but one guy had to win.
“It’s a tough loss for me, but it’s only going to fuel me with more motivation to practice hard and get back to Grand Slam finals, which I haven’t been in for the last three slams. I feel like I’m playing well and I would have deserved to be in the finals tomorrow.
“Novak has the shot and I wish him the best.”
Asked about missing out on playing Nadal here – the only Grand Slam where they have not contested a final – Federer added: “I would have loved to play against him here. I did my hard yards the last six years making it to the finals and he was unfortunately never there.
“That’s obviously disappointing and now one point away from this happening, obviously it’s a bit of disappointment. Now we’ll never know how it would have gone, but if I would have made it to the finals I would have obviously wanted to win.”