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Federer beats Djokovic at Open

NEW YORK ” Ominous clouds overhead, the sort of hard court that troubled him this season underfoot, Roger Federer sensed something Saturday he hadn’t in quite a while.

He was playing exactly like that guy named Roger Federer.

The Federer who has won 33 consecutive matches and four consecutive championships at the U.S. Open. The Federer closing in on his 13th Grand Slam title.

“One more match,” he said, “is all I need.”

Only after Federer finished restoring order to his world by dismissing Novak

Djokovic 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 did Tropical Storm Hanna carry chaos to Flushing Meadows, dumping enough rain to suspend the other men’s semifinal in progress and postpone the women’s final.

So Serena Williams will seek her third U.S. Open and ninth major title against first-time Grand Slam finalist Jelena Jankovic on Sunday night, the first time since 1974 the women’s champion won’t be crowned on a Saturday.

The men’s final was delayed until Monday for the first time since 1987, giving Federer plenty of time to rest. He also was going to be able to do some scouting Sunday when his nemesis, new No. 1 Rafael Nadal, was to resume his semifinal against No. 6 Andy Murray. They stopped Saturday with Murray leading 6-2, 7-6 (5), 2-3.

The winner will face a Federer who looked confident and supremely competent against Djokovic in their rematch of the 2007 final.

“I had moments out there where I really felt, ‘This is how I normally play on hard court’ ” half-volleys, passing shots, good serving, putting the pressure on, playing with the wind, using it to my advantage,” said Federer, who produced 20 aces and only one double-fault.

“I definitely had moments during today where I thought, ‘This is how I would like to play every time.’ So it was a very nice feeling, actually, to get that feeling back.”

He dominated the opening set and the last 1 1/2 sets to reach his 13th final in the

past 14 Grand Slam tournaments.

The one gap in that span was the Australian Open in January, when Djokovic upset Federer in the semifinals en route to his only major title. Perhaps that gave Federer extra motivation. This was hanging in the balance, too: Had Djokovic won Saturday and gone on to win the championship, he would have surpassed Federer in the

rankings, dropping the longtime No. 1 all the way to No. 3.

“This was a big match. I knew it from when I saw the draw,” said Federer, who called his pursuit of Pete Sampras’ record of 14 career major championships “obviously still very much alive and everything is possible.”

Also in his sights: Federer can become the first man since Bill Tilden in the 1920s to win five consecutive U.S. tennis championships.

The fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium cheered for both the second-seeded Federer of Switzerland, and the third-seeded Djokovic of Serbia, but the reigning champion got more backing.

“I feel a little bit New Yorker right now,” Federer said. “I definitely appreciate the efforts from the fans, supporting me and pushing me forward.”

Maybe they remembered what happened Thursday on the same court. After beating Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals, Djokovic drew merciless boos by lashing out at the American, taking him to task for making light of the Serb’s series of medical issues earlier in the week.

“It’s been a very exhausting tournament, mentally and physically, for me,” Djokovic said Saturday, declining to discuss the Roddick matter.

Or maybe the fans simply figured Federer needed an extra push during what, by his so-special standards, has been a sub-par season.

He has 12 losses, more than in any entire year from 2004-07.

He has two titles, his lowest total entering a U.S. Open since 2002. Neither came on the surface used at Flushing Meadows, and Federer said: “I have been struggling on hard court, you know. I have no problems admitting that.”

Federer, though, never doubted he could summon his skills.

Nor did Djokovic.

“Roger is still there, you know. And even though people are talking about him not playing so well this year, he’s still very consistent,” Djokovic said. “That’s his strength, you know. Whenever he needs to play well, he plays his best.”

Sure did that Saturday.

It was as though Federer knew that those gray clouds could stop things at any moment and he wanted to get as far ahead as fast as possible. As he and Djokovic played on, tournament officials concerned about the impending rain shifted Nadal-Murray to Louis Armstrong Stadium instead of having it follow the first semifinal on Ashe.

When that shift was announced, thousands of fans booed, then ran from one court to the other. They likely would be thrilled to hear the U.S. Tennis Association is revisiting the idea of spending $100 million to put a retractable roof over the main court.

Murray compiled a 44-19 edge in winners against Nadal, and it came as no surprise that the Scotsman seemed reluctant to leave when rain came. Nadal-Murray started about 1 1/2 hours after the other semifinal began and was to resume about 26 hours after Federer-Djokovic concluded.

“I play wherever they schedule to play. … The decision to change courts is understandable,” Nadal said. “No complaints whatsoever.”


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