Novak Djokovic advanced to the U.S. Open semifinals on Tuesday night, marking the 10th straight year that the Serb finds himself in the final four in Flushing Meadows.
But once again, the world number one did it without having to play a full match, building a 6-3, 6-2 lead over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before the Frenchman was forced to retire with a knee injury.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga gets a visit from the trainer during last night's U.S. Open quarterfinal. Credit photos to Darren Carroll/USTA/USOpen.org
Djokovic has now played just nine full sets in his five victories over the last week-plus. According to ATP Media Info, this is the first time in the Open Era a semifinalist at any of the four Grand Slams has reached the last four with three retirements/walkovers.
“This was the scenario that I needed and I wishes for,” said Djokovic., who came into the U.S. Open dealing with elbow and wrist injuries. “I got a lot of days off and recovered my body. Right now I’m feeling very close to the peak. That’s the position where I want to be.”
Entering the year’s final major, there were questions surrounding Djokovic and both his physical and mental state following his early loss at Wimbledon and at the Olympics. Djokovic was in tears following his defeat to Juan Martin del Potro in the opening round of the Olympics, saying that loss hurt more than others.
“No doubt this is one of the toughest losses in my life and in my career,” Djokovic said after his third-straight loss at the Olympics. “It’s not easy to handle, especially now, just after the wounds are still fresh.
But, you know, you have to deal with it. It’s not the first or the last time I am losing a tennis match.”
So maybe Djokovic’s mid-season struggles (a relative term for someone who still holds a strong grip on the world’s highest ranking) have had a refreshing effect on Djokovic, who seems to be relishing the fact that he has yet to be really tested in his five matches in Queens.
“Not really,” Djokovic said when asked if playing in a long, tight match would be uncharted territory for him. “I have played [at this stage] so many times. So many times I have been in this particular situation where I had long matches on the road to the semis of a Grand Slam. I also have had some Grand Slams where I didn’t spend too much time on the court.
It really just depends how you feel, how your season has been, and how many matches you have played throughout the year. As I said, this scenario was ideal at this stage.”
Djokovic is the type of champion who, once the lights on the biggest stage come on, he will be ready to deliver his A-game. There is a level of comfort he has having played in so many big matches over the last decade and those long four or five set affairs only bring out the best in the world number one’s game.
In the semifinals, Djokovic will play another Frenchman in 10th seed Gael Monfils, who continued his bulldozing play with another straight-set win, over Lucas Pouille, on Tuesday.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.