Tonight in a hot and humid Arthur Ashe Stadium, the remaining four from a main draw pool of 128 take centre stage to book their place in the final of the US Open. In a rerun of the Rogers Cup Masters tournament in Toronto 5 weeks ago the line-up once again reads Djokovic V Monfils, and Wawrinka V Nishikori at the semi-final stage. Last time round it was the Serb and the man from Japan who advanced, but that was 5 weeks ago and a Grand Slam is a different animal. Here are our previews for tonight’s matches……..
Novak Djokovic V Gael Monfils
If you peruse these players previous history it makes for grim reading for the Frenchman. Their first encounter was a mere 11 years ago on the very same grounds they’ll feature on tonight, with an 18 year old Novak defeating 19 year old Gael in a tightly contested five setter in the 1st round. Djokovic advanced to the 3rd round that year and would match his achievement the following year in 2006. Since 2007 the Serb has progressed to semi-final every year, a staggering 10 consecutive times, making it to 6 finals and lifting the trophy twice. In that same period of time he has met Monfils no fewer than 11 times on the tour, winning every match.
So it seems a hopeless task for the Frenchman, except Gael has been playing arguably the finest tennis of his career and this could be his best chance yet against an out-of-sync Djokovic. With his surprising exit from Wimbledon at the hands of Querrey and his tear-inducing defeat at Rio, Djokovic has not been the man of steel we’ve all become accustomed to. Admittedly Nole should be fresh given his relatively easy route to the last four. In the 5 rounds thus far Novak has only completed 9 sets, with a walkover and 2 retirements helping him along the way. While this may be seen as an advantage for the Serb, he hasn’t really been tested after coming into the tournament with wrist and shoulder niggles. Monfils need not worry though, as he too will be coming into this match feeling fresh, with the Frenchman yet to drop a set on his way to the Semi’s and has also enjoyed a 2 day break since defeating Pouille.
All signs still point to a Djokovic victory but the US Open has sprung up some big surprises in years gone by. One thing is certain, with the unpredictable, exuberant Frenchman on court and with all his showmanship, whatever the outcome; spectators will get their money’s worth
Prediction: Djokovic taken all the way but emerges victorious in 5
Stan Wawrinka V Kei Nishikori
For the nightcap, these two big-hitting baseline players come head to head for the last spot in the final on Sunday. Although Stan edges their H2H 3-2 and despite his superior ranking, Nishikori will be going into tonight’s match the slight favourite. This should come as no surprise given Nishkori comes into the semi-final having ousted one of the hot favourites in Britain’s Andy Murray in a scintillating 5 set thriller. That win puts Kei 5-0 against top 10 players at the US Open, so world number 3 Wawrinka has plenty to be worried about. Add to that the fact that Stan has yet to face a seeded player and had to save a match point before finally overcoming world no.64 Dan Evans.
While Nishikori prevented Murray from reaching all four Grand Slam finals this year in what was one of his greatest ever results, we should remember what happened in 2014. Probably the only result to usurp his QF victory over Murray was when he sent Djokovic packing at the Semi-final stage 2 years ago. He then went on to lose in straight sets to Croatia’s Marin Cilic in the final. If he can consolidate his QF victory with another tonight, having taken out the world no.2 and no.3, he will go into the final with the belief he can defeat the no.1, unless Gael Monfils has other plans!
While the spotlight has been on Nishikori’s achievement, one should note that although unseeded, beating a rejuvenated Del Potro was no easy feat. Stan also has a history of turning it on when it matters, and with the Australian and French Open titles already under his belt, he’ll be hungry to add another at Flushing Meadows.
Ultimately if Wawrinka wants to win he’ll need to despatch of Nishikori in 3 or 4 sets. Stan has one of the most devastating weapons in the sport with his one-hand backhand, but Nishikori thrives on clutch situations, with the highest percentage of 5th sets won by any tennis player in the open era.
Prediction: Stan wins it in 4 tight sets