After the lashing rains and the helter-skelter rush to make up the matches that confused both the viewing and playing experience of the 2011 U.S. Open, we've got a pairing today that is worth stopping to appreciate. Roger Federer is facing Novak Djokovic in one of the men's semifinals.
Having recently celebrated his 30th birthday, Federer looked merely like one of the best players in the world this year as opposed to the greatest of all time. On the other hand, Djokovic made a leap up from just being one of the top players in the world and is making a bid for the best year in modern tennis.He enters this match at 62-2 and this will likely be his toughest test as he chases down John McEnroe's 1984 mark. This match will go a long way toward deciding precisely what kind of year it will have been for each.
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There are still a few if's remaining for Novak Djokovic: IF he can beat Nadal or Murray in the Final and IF he can get to McEnroe's single-year record.
But IF either of those two if's are fulfilled then a moment in this match could very well become the defining moment of Djokovic's career. Down a break in the fifth set and facing two match points on Federer's serve. With a lightning serve bolted at him from Fed, Novak unleashed a return that would have Zeus jealous. Getting himself to 30-40 in the game, a weight seemed to lift from the 24-year-old Serb. A smile broke the look of resignation previously on his face. He turned to the crowd, that had audibly gotten behind Federer, and flashed a toothy grin. He lifted and waved his arms, imploring them to get behind him. To look and acknowledge that wicked forehand return that had just prolong the match that they were all enjoying so much. They loved it. The neutrals were suddenly in his corner. Novak fought off another match point and eventually broke Federer's serve to get back into this one.
For years, Novak's personality has been perhaps his biggest on-court problem. At first, he seemed petty and easily-injured and then he seemed arrogant and too concerned with showmanship. Today he got it just right and showed the synergy that can exist between spectator and performer, even at the highest level. A stunning achievement.
|@ jayfeely : Not w/o American in the mix RT @adbrandt Djokovic beats Federer, then dances for the crowd. In men's tennis, these are the good old days.|
After telling the whole stadium to dance with him and asking for some music, he shakes what his Serbian mother gave him. Enberg, offhandedly asks, "What has it become?"
|@ bruce_arthur : For Federer, it's the same story: At the biggest moments now he's more likely to slip, just a little. Just enough.|
|@ Toure : This was one of the greatest matches ever. A crowning achievement in the midst of one of the greatest seasons ever.|
Fed returns long and this is as stunning a loss as Federer has ever had. Novak fired up after rallying from two sets down and saving match points in fifth set.
Novak gets two match points after Fed can't handle a deep ball to his forehand side. Shocking comeback in the offing.
Roger tries to slice a backhand return hit net. It's a "gimme" says Mac.
Federer playing defense while caged in corner until Novak puts one into net.
Novak takes early lead Federer backhand sails wide. Fed looks resigned here. Or is that his trademark calm?
Djokovic has the lead and the ball. What does Fed have?
What a shocking turn of events. After having to fight off several match points earlier, Novak has roared back. It all started with him hitting a terrific return and then addressing crowd. 6-5 in the fifth set.
Long rally with everyone at their respective baselines, ends with winner from Djokovic. Break points upcoming.
Fed looks frustrated, annoyed while his opponent is gaining steam. Also, usually full of hot air.
Djokovic fights off one smash but Fed kills point with second.
Djokovic holds serve.
Fed forehand goes into net. It seems like Fed has lost a bit of that magic that he had as recently as 10 minutes ago.
|@ erikmal : It's official: I don't want anyone to win this match. Ever.|
Fed can't handle hot service.
Fed just long as they were rallying.
Fed gets on top early.
Djokovic will serve to level fifth set.
Fighting off match points, Novak comes back to break on double fault. Unpossible. His playing to the crowd turned the entire vibe at Ashe. Was ready for coronation, now they're with Nole.
This game has been a rollercoater
And we're back at deuce.
Fed's forehand finally goes astray and Novak can break. Novak turned the crowd with the display.