The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Sports

September 8, 2013

Novak Djokovic to meet Rafael Nadal in US Open final

(Continued)

Fans certainly got their money’s worth in the first one.

“I managed to find my way through, to adjust, and to win,” Djokovic said. “That’s what counts.”

His victory will be remembered mostly for a game he lost — the third game of the final set, a back-and-forth roller coaster ride in which Djokovic had five opportunities to break for a 2-1 lead and lost them all.

Ninth-seeded Wawrinka had eight game points. Before the last, he gestured to the crowd to pump up the volume. Sensing the opportunity, Djokovic hammed it up, as well. Wawrinka followed that well-deserved break in the action with a 123-mph service winner up the middle.

“It was a really long game with some good points and some big mistakes,” said Wawrinka, of Switzerland, who made it farther than his country’s most famous player, Roger Federer, for the first time in any of his 35 Grand Slam appearances.

“He was quite nervous. I was really tired,” Wawrinka added. “I was struggling physically, and it was not easy to keep the level quite high. But, for me, it was just important to fight and not to let him go and not to lose 6-1 or 6-2, but just to try to get every game I can.”

Walking gingerly to his chair after that game, Wawrinka sat down and smiled throughout the break.

A set earlier, he needed a medical timeout to get his right thigh taped. How much longer could he possibly last? Especially against Djokovic, whose road to No. 1 has been highlighted by an improved diet and a focus on fitness that has made him, by almost every account, the most physically prepared player in the game.

“At the end of the first set, I started feeling my right leg,” Wawrinka said. “At that moment, I knew I was going to be out of fuel if I had to play a long match. I knew I would struggle physically against him — especially against him because he’s such a good defender.”

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