Federer-Djokovic Semi, Monday Final Become Annual Rites at U.S. Open

A Roger Federer-Novak Djokovic semifinal is becoming as much of an annual feature at the U.S. Open as a rain-delayed men’s championship match.

Five-time champion Federer and top seed Djokovic will set a tournament record when they meet tomorrow in the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year.

Federer is one of two players to have defeated Djokovic this year, in the semifinals of the French Open. Djokovic, who is 62-2 in 2011, had his only other loss this year to Briton Andy Murray last month in Cincinnati.

“It’s the biggest challenge in tennis right now and I’m up to it and am really looking forward to it,” Federer said in a televised courtside interview.

Federer, the third seed from Switzerland, won the first two of his U.S. Open semifinals with Djokovic in 2008 and 2009, as well as the final in 2007. Djokovic, from Serbia, won their semifinal in five sets last year.

The four straight Federer-Djokovic semifinals are a U.S. Open record since the Open era began in 1968. Americans John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors played in three straight from 1978 to 1980. McEnroe won two of those matches.

Federer, 30, advanced to his eighth straight U.S. Open semifinal with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 defeat last night of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 11th seed from France. That ties him with Ivan Lendl, who reached eight straight semifinals from 1982 to 1989, for second place in the Open era behind Connors’s 12 straight from 1974 to 1985.

Slow Starter

Djokovic, 24, who reached his fifth consecutive semifinal at the National Tennis Center in New York by defeating fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic yesterday, said he must be more aggressive in the semifinal.

“The last two matches I have been starting very slow,” he said in a news conference. “I’m very passive.”

It’ll also be the third Grand Slam semifinal meeting this year for Federer and Djokovic. The Serb won at the Australian Open and lost in the French Open. Federer, who didn’t reach the semifinals at Wimbledon, has a 14-9 career record against Djokovic.

Federer, the winner of a men’s record 16 Grand Slam singles titles, is yet to win one this year. Should he fail in New York, it would be the first time since 2002 that he hasn’t won one of the sport’s four major tournaments.

The winner of the Federer-Djokovic semifinal will move on to the final that was pushed to Sept. 12 because of two days of rain this week. It is the fourth straight year the men’s championship match is being delayed until Monday.

“It’s always a great matchup between the two of us,” Federer said in a news conference. “There are no real secrets out there. We have had particularly good matches here at the U.S. Open and I have the feeling it’s going to be something similar again.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Gloster in San Francisco at rgloster@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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