Novak Djokovic has won through to the US Open semi-final, beating Juan Martin Del Potro in a straight sets victory that was a lot closer than the score of 6-2, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 indicated.
It may not have taken as long as the five-set thriller between David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic earlier in the day, but the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium was stunned by the ferocity of the tennis on display by the second and seventh seeds.
"I love playing night sessions but this was much closer than the scoreline suggests," said Djokovic, who finished Thursday's tie with 43 winners.
"Juan Martin is a great player and I was lucky in the second set. There were some incredible points and rallies. He came up with some great forehands but he is a big guy and I wanted to keep him moving from side to side."
Djokovic defends an 8-5 record against Ferrer.
"It will be another big battle. David has been one of the most consistent players over the last six, seven years but few people ever talk about him. I will have to be very competitive," said the champion.
Del Potro admitted Djokovic had out-played him.
"He is playing better and better. I had the chance to take the second set but he played the important points well," said the Argentine.
"He was just too much for me."
Djokovic was in sensational form in the first set, and he swept to a 6-2 win in just 38 minutes.
What followed, however, was one of the most dramatic sets at a grand slam tournament in some time.
Del Potro took advantage of a slight loss in concentration by Djokovic to break early, but once he had the break in hand it became a breathtaking battle for every point.
Both players set aside the chips and slice shots, in favour of powerful, stunning groundstrokes that brought the crowd to its feet time and again.
Del Potro led 5-4 with the set in his grasp, but Djokovic forced a break point and then held on in a blistering rally to level the set and held for a 6-5 lead.
The set was capped by a 17-minute 12th game, where a desperate Del Potro fought to stave off a second set loss and both players battered the ball through an almost-endless string of deuces.
Finally, Del Potro hung on to force a tie-break, and then won an early mini-break to gain in confidence.
But Djokovic raised his play again, broke back and then again to race away with the tie-break by 7-3.
There was another early break in the third set, this time for the Serbian number two seed, and games then stayed with serve until the tenth of the set, when Djokovic served for the match.
He led 30-0 before Del Potro ripped a cross-court winner followed by an unforced error by Djokovic to bring the score back to 30-30. Djokovic rebounded to finish a big rally with a stinging backhand winner down the line to set up match point.
Finally Djokjovic pushed Del Potro deep to the corner, and the Argentinian could not get it back in play, ending the match after three hours and six minutes.
Djokovic will now play Ferrer in the semi-finals, while Czech Tomas Berdych - the conqueror of Switzerland's Roger Federer in the quarter-finals - will play Britain's Andy Murray to decide the other place in the men's singles final.
ABC/AFPTags: sport, tennis, us-open, united-states First posted September 07, 2012 13:56:04