According to legend, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in returning for becoming one of the greatest-ever blues musicians. Novak Djokovic may not have gone to that extreme but his pursuit of glory at this year’s US Open is being showered with favours from the gods.
The Serb cruised into the last four after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to retire hurt during their quarter-final. It merely sped up the inevitable; Djokovic was leading 2 – 0 having won the opening sets, 6 – 3, 6 – 2.
It was third time he had been gifted victory. American Jim Vesely withdrew from the competition due to injury whilst his second tie ended prematurely when Mikhail Youzhny succumbed to a thigh injury.
Since his injury-plagued victory over Jerzy Janowicz in the first round, only Kyle Edmund has extended the number one seed to a full match. Even then, Djokovic ran out a comfortable 6 – 2, 6 – 1, 6 – 4 winner over the 21 year-old Briton and he freely admits that the rest time has allowed him to recover, becoming sharper as the tournament progresses.
It’s the sort of luck he could not even have dreamed of before his first match and having seemed out of sorts against Janowicz, there is an almost serene air about Djokovic now.
He meets tenth seed Gael Monfils in the semi-final. The Frenchman has barely broken sweat on his way to the last four with five straight-sets victories but is a rank outsider to go any further. Djokovic is 9/1-on to beat a player he has never lost to in their previous twelve meetings.
Things got even better for the Serb with Andy Murray’s stunning five-set defeat to Kei Nishikori yesterday. The Scot had won comfortably when the pair met at the Rio Olympics and seemed to be on the way to repeating that when he took the third set 6 – 4.
The Olympic gold medallist seemed in control early in the fourth until a malfunction in the sound system forced the umpire to call a ‘let’. Murray argued furiously with the official and tournament referee, admitting afterwards that he allowed the incident to distract him. It proved costly as Nishikori won the next seven games. The seventh seed found his rhythm and ruthlessly punished Murray’s distraction, conceding just six games in the final two sets.
It sent the Japanese into a last four meeting with Stan Wawrinka, in the process cementing Djokovic’s place as 3/1-on favourite to win the tournament outright.
The Swiss is capable of upsetting the Serb, who is one of his closest friends. The pair have contested several five-setters in their previous meetings and at 6/1, Wawrinka is a good outside bet to win his first US Open and his third Grand Slam in three years. That said, Djokovic’s luck this time around and 19-4 record over Wawrinka doesn’t bode well for the third seed.
It’s hard to see who will stop Djokovic claiming his third Grand Slam title this season and his thirteenth overall.