Switzerland's Roger Federer has reached the final of the US Open with a shot he described as the greatest of his life.This content was published on September 14, 2009 - 07:54
A point after the between-the-legs, back-to-the-net, crosscourt winner from the baseline – with the crowd in hysterics and opponent Novak Djokovic still in shock – the world's top-ranked player closed out the match 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5 to move one win from his sixth consecutive title in New York.
Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina earlier handed Rafael Nadal his worst loss in a major tournament, beating the Spaniard 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 to reach his first grand slam final and a meeting with Federer, who made his 17th in the last 18.
Serbia's Djokovic fought for more than two-and-a-half hours on a day that grew increasingly windy at Arthur Ashe Stadium, never losing sight of Federer and even earning two break points late in the third set to briefly see a glimmer of hope.
Some things however don't have any answers, and the winner Federer hit to set up match point was the perfect example. It's the kind of shot every tennis player has tried - and one the Swiss star actually practises.
"A lot, actually," he said. "But they never work. That's why I guess it was the greatest shot I ever hit in my life."
To see the shot, click on the "magic shot" link to the right.
Ahead 5-4 and 30-0 in the third set, Federer sprinted to the net to return a Djokovic drop shot, then Djokovic finessed a lob over Federer's head that bounced barely inside the baseline.
Federer had nothing to lose, so he ran back and hit the athletic shot, a ball that lots of players, especially at the highest levels, can get back.
But few can do what Federer did with his: hit a blazing winner that barely clears the net. Federer jumped and shouted. Djokovic could only stand there and smile. He reached in his pocket to find the ball he'd serve to bring the match to a merciful end – for him, at least.
"You just say, 'well done'," Djokovic said. "What can you do? I don't want to mention the word luck, but I didn't have it today. That's why I'm a little bit disappointed."
Had Federer not made his remarkable shot, the point that would have defined the match came at 5-5 in the second set.
Djokovic was at the net and somehow managed to get five straight reflex volleys back to Federer, who was standing at the service line.
Djokovic's final volley was a floater and he stuck his racket between his legs, turned around and stuck out his bottom - the tennis player's version of begging for mercy.
Everyone got a good laugh, but the mark Federer is leaving on this sport is very serious: he's looking for his 41st straight win at Flushing Meadows; he's in his 21st grand slam final, a record; he has reached 22 consecutive grand slam semifinals, more than twice as many as any other man; he's trying to extend his own record with a 16th grand slam title, but first since his twins were born in July.
"Right now, I'm pretty relaxed," Federer said. "We'll see how it goes when the sun comes up. I'd like to keep this going. It'd be great to get my first grand slam as a dad."
Earlier, del Potro put on a show that was every bit as efficient as Federer's was spectacular, taking apart Nadal with a flurry of big serves and precise forehands.
Nadal finally acknowledged his strained abdominals were bothering him throughout this tournament, but didn't want that to take away from del Potro's fine effort.
"I'm going to repeat: he played much better than me, and for that reason he beat me," Nadal said.
The sixth-seeded Argentine – the first from that country to make a US Open final since Guillermo Vilas in 1977 – kept Nadal pinned behind the baseline with a deep, flat forehand and a powerful first serve.
He has lost all six previous encounters against Federer and hadn't won a set until this year in the French Open semifinals. But del Potro claims he is seeing the ball very well this week.
"Maybe my green eyes. I don't know," he said. "It's very tough playing against Rafa or Roger. But today I played unbelievable, and that was the key."
On this day, though – and during that one magic moment, especially – it was Federer who had a stranglehold on "unbelievable".
swissinfo.ch and agencies
Roger Federer was born on August 8, 1981 in Binningen, canton Basel Country.
His father is Swiss German, and his mother South African.
He speaks three languages fluently: German, French and English. At home he uses Swiss German.
The world number one has won 15 grand slam titles: Roland Garros (2009), Australian Open (2004, 2006, 2007), Wimbledon (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009) and the US Open (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008).
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