Roger Federer reminded his nearest rivals just how difficult it is to win grand slam titles as he prepared to face Novak Djokovic in Saturday’s US Open semi-finals, weather permitting.
With persistent heavy rain in New York threatening a Monday finish for the second year in a row, the men’s semi-final line up had yet to be settled this evening as third seed Rafael Nadal and number 11 Fernando Gonzalez waited to complete their quarter-final at Flushing Meadows.
Nadal was a set up and leading the second-set tie-break 3-2 when the rains began to fall last night with play abandoned for the day at around midnight local time.
With sixth seed Juan Martin del Potro awaiting the winner, there was no prospect of them resuming until at least 16 hours later while world number one Federer was also able to relax and wait for the skies to clear for his semi-final date with Djokovic.
Federer was able to speak with authority on what it took to win one of the four tennis majors, having broken Pete Sampras’ record of career grand slam titles when he picked up his 15th at Wimbledon earlier this summer. Nadal is his nearest active rival with six.
Fourth seed Djokovic has one to his name, earned at the 2008 Australian Open, while Del Potro is playing only his second grand slam semi-final.
Second seed Andy Murray, who played his first grand slam final at last year’s US Open when he was swept aside as Federer won a fifth successive title at Flushing Meadows, was a surprise fourth-round casualty this time around, going out to Marin Cilic.
And world number one Federer said: “It’s just not easy to win slams. It’s just that simple.
“Okay, you might think I have a lot, but I played many before where I didn’t win, as well. And semis or finals just doesn’t give you the win yet. It’s a tough road, and you have to finish the deal and it’s a hard thing to do.”
In the wake of his quarter-final win over 12th seed Robin Soderling, Federer said: “I mean, now I’ve played great, but if I crash out in the semis, it’s a pity.
“I think that’s what (Murray) went through. He had a great summer, and leading into the US Open he was one of the favourites.
“Of course it’s disappointing for him that he didn’t come through. I think he definitely has the game to do much better than losing against Cilic in the fourth round.
“It’s tough. It happens like that. You have to move on from it, get stronger, and give yourself opportunities.
“That’s exactly what I’ve been doing. There’s many good guys out there right now, Cilic is one of them, Del Potro. They’re making a name for themselves. It’s not that simple right now to dominate.”
Another meeting with Djokovic, for the third year in a row at the US Open, will provide Federer the next test of his greatness as he continues his bid to win a sixth title in a row in New York with a 22nd consecutive grand slam semi-final appearance.
“It’s obviously a tough match,” Federer said. “I think he’s done well to come through; getting through to a semi-final stage of a slam it’s just about getting there and then hopefully saving your best for last.
“He’s put himself in this position. He’s done well against me in the past, but I beat him in Cincinnati (last month) and I hope I can build on that, and try to beat him again here on Saturday.”
Whichever player Del Potro faces in the last four, the Argentinian knows exactly what he must improve on having come a set and 3-1 down against Cilic to win in four sets.
“I cannot start the match like that,” Del Potro said of his semi-final. “I was thinking other things and the weather was bad.
“I need to focus in the beginning of the match until the last point and play my game; that’s it.”