It’s been three years since Novak Djokovic won the US Open, a tournament he usually shines in. By beating Andy Murray he knocked out one of the only two players who have beaten him in New York over the last four years, and the other one isn’t even in the tournament to begin with. He didn’t go in to the Grand Slam with a hot streak behind him, but he is finding his best tennis at the right time.
It’s a weird year for Andy Murray – changing coaches, injuries and other problems. Maybe he peaked with his Grand Slam titles in 2012 and 2013? It doesn’t matter. For two and a half sets he gave Djokovic the biggest fight the 7-time Grand Slam champion has had in Queens this summer. Murray won the second set but it seemed that it took out too much from him, and Djokovic’s power and shot making was too much in sets three and four.
Next for Djokovic in the semifinal is Kei Nishikori, the Japanese star who hasn’t encountered Djokovic too much in his career. They’ve only met three times over the last four years, with Djokovic winning two of the matches, including their most recent clash – Miami, although that was a withdrawal by Nishikori. Their two matches that actually happened came in 2011, splitting the head to head.
Then, if Djokovic does manage to reach his fifth consecutive US Open final, the options aren’t that bad: Berdych, a player he has mostly owned in his career, losing to the Czech player just twice; Marin Cilic, who Djokovic has a perfect 10-for-10 record against;Gael Monfils, another player Djokovic is perfect against; and Roger Federer.
It’s been an interesting year for the Djokovic-Federer rivalry. They have met each other four times, splitting the series. However, when it matters, in Finals, Djokovic came out as the winner. First at Indian Wells, winning the Masters with a comeback after dropping the first set, and more importantly at Wimbledon, against climbing back from losing the first set and claiming a five set victory on Federer’s favorite surface.
Federer is in excellent form, but there’s a point when it becomes about more than ability and technique. There’s a threshold Djokovic can push through and Federer can’t, which is easy to spot in best of five matches. Obviously, Djokovic has shown inconsistency this year which means nothing is guaranteed, but from the way the field is set up, it’s his tournament to lose, and it’ll be due to him not playing up to his usual level that decides if the title goes into a different set of hands.