Djokovic, Nadal in U.S. Open First Repeat Men’s Final Since ‘88

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal won semifinal matches to set up the first U.S. Open men’s championship rematch in 23 years, while Serena Williams moved within one victory of her fourth women’s title.

Djokovic, the top seed from Serbia, rallied from a two-set deficit and withstood two match points yesterday to eliminate five-time champion Roger Federer in the semifinals for the second straight year. Nadal, the No. 2 seed and defending champion from Spain, won in four sets against Andy Murray.

The last time the U.S. Open men’s final featured the same players in back-to-back years was 1987-88, when Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander split their meetings. Nadal beat Djokovic last year to win the tennis season’s final Grand Slam, yet Djokovic has won all five of their matches this year -- all in tournament finals -- en route to a 63-2 record.

“He’s playing with high confidence,” Nadal, who has lost 11 of 14 sets against Djokovic this year, said in a news conference. “I am not very happy about my mental performance against him this year because for moments I didn’t really believe 100 percent. That’s what I’m going to try to change for Monday.”

The men’s final was pushed back to tomorrow from today -- the tournament’s fourth straight Monday finish -- because of delays and cancellations caused by rain earlier this week.

Williams will play Samantha Stosur of Australia in the women’s final today after ousting top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-2, 6-4 in yesterday’s last semifinal match.

Williams, who won the U.S. Open in 1999, 2002 and 2008, is seeking her 14th Grand Slam title. The 29-year-old American entered the tournament as the favorite among oddsmakers even though she was seeded 28th after two seasons marred by injury, including a torn tendon in her foot that forced her to miss last year’s U.S. Open.

Stosur Makes Final

“It’s been such a long, arduous road and I can’t believe it,” said Williams, who will be playing on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. “I really want to play on such a special day for the United States, so I’m very excited.”

Stosur is aiming for her first major after beating unseeded Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 yesterday to become the only Australian woman to reach the U.S. Open final since Wendy Turnbull in 1977.

Comeback Victory

Djokovic, 24, rallied to beat Federer 6-7 (7-9), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 yesterday and then danced for the crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium. He became the second player in 184 matches to beat the 16-time major champion at a Grand Slam after losing the first two sets.

“When he’s in control, he’s confident and it’s really hard to get back into the match,” said Djokovic, who had a 43-match win streak earlier this season. “But I managed to play better, to switch gears and played two incredible sets. Then I felt it was the moment.”

Djokovic now gets a chance to avenge his four-set loss to Nadal in last year’s U.S. Open final. Although he trails the Spaniard 16-12 in their all-time series, Djokovic’s 5-0 record this year includes a finals win at Wimbledon and hard court Masters series victories in Miami and Indian Wells, California, where he rallied from a set down against Nadal both times.

Third Major?

With titles at Wimbledon and the Australian Open already this season, Djokovic will attempt to become the sixth men’s player in tennis’s Open era to win three majors in a season. Nadal did it last year, while the others -- since 1968 -- are Federer, Wilander, Jimmy Connors and Rod Laver.

“It’s obvious that this is the best year of my career, by far,” said Djokovic, who last month became the first player to win five ATP World Tour Masters titles in one season. “The confidence level that is very high at this moment helps me get into these big matches and go for shots that maybe in some situations wouldn’t go for in past years.”

Nadal is back in the championship match after a 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win against the fourth-seeded Murray that improved him to 59-10 this year, second only to Djokovic.

Nadal’s win was his fifth straight over Murray and extends the Grand Slam drought for the U.K., which last had a men’s major title won by Fred Perry in 1936.

Nadal Seeks Repeat

Nadal will now attempt to become the eighth repeat U.S. Open winner since 1968, joining Federer, Patrick Rafter, Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg, Lendl, Connors and John McEnroe.

Connors was the last player to beat the same opponent in consecutive U.S. men’s finals, against Lendl in 1982-83.

Federer, who won the U.S. Open each year from 2004-08, lamented a “lucky shot” that Djokovic hit yesterday to stay alive while withstanding a first match point.

Federer’s loss means he’ll go without a major title for the first time since 2002. Since winning his 16th Grand Slam at the 2010 Australian Open, Federer’s lone final appearance at a major was a loss to Nadal at the French Open in June.

“Sometimes in sports it just goes the other way, you know,” said Federer, who also blew a two-set lead in losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in June. “Maybe you’ve already won so much that it evens it out a bit. But for me, it was still a good run here. Sure it’s a bit of a bummer. I guess it happens occasionally.”

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