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Saturday, September 8, 2007
Federer wins, will face Djokovic in U.S. Open finals

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Roger Federer watched his opponent's last shot of their U.S. Open semifinal drop out, then calmly walked to the net for a handshake.

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He didn't drop to his knees, didn't thrust an index finger to the sky, didn't take off his shirt -- the sort of celebratory gestures Novak Djokovic came up with earlier Saturday upon reaching his first Grand Slam final.

You see, Federer does not get overly excited about semifinal victories, even at majors tournaments. He's all about titles, and now he's one victory away from yet another: No. 4 at the U.S. Open, No. 12 overall at Slams.

Tested at the start and again late, the No. 1-seeded Federer worked his way past No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko 7-5, 6-1, 7-5 Saturday, stretching his winning streak at Flushing Meadows to 26 matches.

In Sunday's championship match, Federer will face the only man to beat him over the past three months: Djokovic. The No. 3-seeded Serb had a harder time with the heat and humidity than with his foe but overcame all three to defeat No. 15 David Ferrer 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

"The conditions were extreme," Djokovic said. "It was so hot."

The 20-year-old Djokovic is the youngest men's finalist at Flushing Meadows since Pete Sampras was 19 when he won the 1990 title. Djokovic is also the first man from Serbia to get to any major final.

Longest Open Win Streaks

Open Era (1968)
Player Wins Years
Ivan Lendl 27 1985-88
Roger Federer 26 2004-present
John McEnroe 25 1979-82

No. 1 Roger Federer was to face No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko in the second semifinal, with the winner playing Djokovic on Sunday.

Federer is bidding to become the first man since the 1920s to win the American Grand Slam four times in a row. He took a 9-0 record against Davydenko into their match, and another victory for Federer would make him the first man in tennis history to reach 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals.

That was to be followed by the women's championship, with No. 1 Justine Henin taking on No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova in a matchup between past Open title winners.

The temperature neared 90 degrees during the Djokovic-Ferrer match, and from early in the second set, Djokovic was troubled. He sought treatment from a doctor at changeovers then and again in the third, and draped around his neck a white towel filled with ice.

He also put a white baseball cap on to provide shade. And when the match ended with a beautiful volley by Djokovic, he dropped to his knees with arms raised, then got up and pulled off his shirt.

A sign of his exhaustion: Djokovic tried throwing the shirt into the stands, but it didn't quite reach the seats. Then he picked it up and heaved it again, underhanded, and this time was successful. In the player's guest box, Djokovic's dad followed suit, pulling off his shirt and encouraging others in nearby seats to do the same.

"I feel very exhausted," Djokovic told the doctor during a visit after he broke Ferrer to go ahead 2-1 in the third set. Djokovic long has displayed the talent to be among the best in tennis, but he also has had his body break down in the latter stages of Slams. He quit because of injuries during a French Open quarterfinal in 2006 and a Wimbledon semifinal this year.

Youngest Men To Reach
U.S. Open Final

Open Era (1968)
Year Player Years-Days Result
1990 Sampras 19-28 Champion
1976 Borg 20-98 Runner-up
2007 Djokovic 20-110 ?
1990 Agassi 20-133 Runner-up

His play was too good on this day, though, thanks to the sort of shotmaking Djokovic displayed while beating Federer, No. 2 Rafael Nadal and then-No. 3 Andy Roddick in succession en route to a hard-court title in Montreal last month -- the first man since 1994 to beat Nos. 1-3 in the rankings at a single tournament.

And Djokovic sure did frustrate Ferrer, who upset Nadal in the fourth round of the U.S. Open but wasn't nearly as good Saturday.

After losing one point in the second set, Ferrer let one of the on-court clocks have it, winding up and kicking the digital readout with full force. His soccer-style attack temporarily broke the display and it was stuck on "0:50" for about 10 minutes.

So Ferrer managed to stop time.

He couldn't do a thing about stopping Djokovic.

Not that Djokovic was a shrinking violet, exactly, tossing his racket a couple of times.

He also repeatedly was disturbed by fans talking during the course of play, complaining to the chair umpire about it and even barking in the direction of some spectators after he missed one shot.

Then again, when Djokovic earned his first match point, he encouraged the crowd to get louder. He's nothing if not a showman, as was made clear when he entertained everyone at Arthur Ashe Stadium with impersonations of Nadal and Maria Sharapova after beating former No. 1 Carlos Moya in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, Djokovic began poorly, falling behind 3-0 while committing seven unforced errors before Ferrer made his first. Ferrer then went ahead 4-1, before Djokovic finally began to show what he can do.

Djokovic won 12 consecutive points and, eventually, seven consecutive games to win the first set and go up a break in the second. He showed off all sorts of tools, including in the second game of the second set, when he won one point with a perfect lob and another with a well-disguised drop shot.

It was during the next game, though, that Djokovic began to labor between points, occasionally bending over to catch his breath. At the ensuing changeover, a doctor checked Djokovic's pulse, gave him a pill to take and told him to try to stay as cool as possible.

That's when Ferrer pretty much made his final stand, taking three straight games while hopping on the balls of his feet during breaks in action, as though to say, "Hey, don't know about you, but I'm feeling great!"

Ferrer trailed 4-3 when Djokovic double-faulted to allow the game to get to deuce. Djokovic yanked off his cap and got down to business, ending the game a few points later with a 123 mph service winner and a 125 mph service winner.

"At important moments," Ferrer said, "he served better than me."