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2013 US Open: men's semi-finals preview

Can anyone stop Novak Djokovic? (AAP Image/Barbara Walton)
Roar Guru
6th September, 2013
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Four men remain in contention for the final Grand Slam title of the year and if the form of the world’s top two players is anything to go by, then you can expect another classic championship showdown between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

The shock departure of Andy Murray at the final eight stage leaves Djokovic as the favourite to reach the final from the top half of the draw, while the rampaging form of Rafael Nadal isn’t expected to be challenged against an opponent to whom he has never lost to at professional level.

Let’s now have a look at the two semi-finals which promise to thrill every step of the way:

Novak Djokovic (1) versus Stanislas Wawrinka (9)
Head-to-head: Djokovic 12-2
Last meeting: Djokovic 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 12-10, fourth round, 2013 Australian Open

What could have been a rematch of last year’s final will instead be a rematch of one of the matches of the year when Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka take centre stage in the first semi-final of the 2013 US Open.

Their last meeting was undoubtedly one of the most memorable matches of the year, where Stanislas Wawrinka took Novak Djokovic to five hard and gruelling sets over more than five hours.

They also met in the fourth round here last year, when Wawrinka was forced to retire through illness.

A lesser-known match between the two also came at the Australian Open, in the second round of qualifying in 2005.

Djokovic won in straight sets en route to reaching the main draw for the first time in his career, where he ultimately got thrashed by the eventual champion, Marat Safin, in the first round.

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Now, they will face each other once again, but this time the stakes are even higher – a place in the US Open final is up for grabs.

Djokovic had breezed through the early rounds without dropping a set, but a relapse in concentration in his quarter-final match against Mikhail Youzhny cost him his first set of the tournament.

Nevertheless, the Serb won through to what will be his 14th consecutive Grand Slam semi-final.

But it won’t be Andy Murray, who denied him last year’s US Open title and this year’s Wimbledon title that he faces in the semi-finals.

It’ll instead be Stanislas Wawrinka, who sent the defending champion crashing out of the US Open with a masterful performance in which he did not face a single break point on his serve.

Wawrinka has also had earlier victories over bigger names including fifth seed Tomas Berdych, Marcos Baghdatis, Ivo Karlovic and Radek Stepanek. All have been ranked inside the top 15 at some stage in their careers.

But to reach his first Grand Slam final, Wawrinka will not only have revenge planned on his mind, but also the fact that he has a 2-12 record against the world number one.

By defeating Djokovic, the Swiss can actually help Rafael Nadal in his bid to return to the world number one ranking (though Nadal would have to win the title to do so).

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Key: Wawrinka will not have forgotten his last meeting against Djokovic, which stretched out to 12-10 in the final set. He has also not beaten Djokovic since 2006.

Prediction: Djokovic in four sets.

Richard Gasquet (8) versus Rafael Nadal (2)
Head-to-head: Nadal 10-0
Last meeting: Nadal 6-3, 6-0, 6-1, first rubber, 2011 Davis Cup semi-finals

Well, what can you say about Rafael Nadal at the moment?

The Spaniard is in the hottest form of his life and only a lapse in concentration or complacency will stop him from sinking his teeth into a second title at Flushing Meadows.

His crushing 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Tommy Robredo in the quarter-finals was indicative of his form so far this year – as he maintained his undefeated record on hard courts dating back to Indian Wells last year.

Next up for the Spaniard is Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who is into his second Grand Slam semi-final, that coming six years after his first, courtesy of a thrilling five-set victory over David Ferrer in the final eight stage.

It’s well known that Gasquet has never defeated Nadal in a professional match but he did so when they were juniors.

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But all that will count for nothing when they take the court in what is also expected to be a high-stakes semi-final.

Nadal will, however, have haunting memories of the last time he faced a Frenchman in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam – back at the 2008 Australian Open, he copped the full force of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s serving and powerful game.

This will be Nadal’s fifth consecutive US Open semi-final and his experience should get him into a third final at Flushing Meadows.

Key: Will Richard Gasquet have enough fuel in the tank, or will Rafael Nadal prove too dominant?

Prediction: Nadal in straight sets.