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Novak Djokovic out to make it lucky 13th slam after Monfils' antics

By Paul Newman

Published 10/09/2016

Final countdown: Novak Djokovic celebrates US Open semi-final victory over Gael Monfils in New York last night
Final countdown: Novak Djokovic celebrates US Open semi-final victory over Gael Monfils in New York last night

Novak Djokovic may never play a more peculiar grand slam match but in the end it was business as usual as the world number one beat Gael Monfils to reach the US Open final.

Djokovic was unnerved after Monfils appeared at times to give up trying in Arthur Ashe Stadium while both players struggled with injury during a fractious two hours and 32 minutes.

The top seed, however, overcame his opponent's antics to win 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-2 and now stands one win away from a 13th major title.

Djokovic, 29, had treatment on both shoulders, while Monfils could barely move at times in punishing conditions.

"Humid" is how Djokovic described it.

"I think that's all we were thinking about and feeling," he added.

Monfils robustly rejected the notion that he did not give his all, saying: "I think I tried my best."

Monfils has thrilled crowds all over the world with his flair, athleticism and wonderful array of shot-making but the Frenchman's bolshie performance here left a sour taste in the mouth.

The crowd were unimpressed enough to boo early in the third set while ESPN commentator and seven-time major champion John McEnroe said: "You can't support that, I'm sorry. It doesn't bring much respect among players in the locker room, none."

Djokovic had benefitted from three retirements en route to the semi-finals and question marks about his fitness remain after he took regular treatment in the latter stages.

Ultimately, however, the 29-year-old survived again and he is now firm favourite to clinch his third US Open title and third out of four majors this calendar year.

Djokovic dodged questions about his physical issues but he did explain why, after losing the third set, he ripped open his shirt, in one of the contest's many mysterious moments.

"Sometimes you don't have an answer to these kinds of questions," Djokovic said.

"We are people in the heat of the moment and you tend to do things like that. I take another t-shirt from my bag and I already feel better."

Monfils started poorly, with two consecutive double faults gifting away the break, and got worse as Djokovic strolled into a 5-0 lead.

It was as Djokovic served for the set that Monfils appeared to stop trying as he waved a forehand long, patted back a single-handed backhand and generally loafed around the baseline like a player entirely disinterested in competing.

Even stranger, however, was that it worked, as Djokovic became rattled by the antics, serving two double faults and handing away one break back for 5-3.

McEnroe said: "Monfils is bordering on unprofessional. And the only reason I say bordering is because it's working."

But Djokovic finally restored some order and closed out.

Then Monfils hobbled into the changeover, after Djokovic had sealed the set 6-2.

Monfils suddenly sparked into life, as he won six out of the next seven games to take the set.

Any thoughts of a comeback, however, were quickly stifled as Djokovic broke for 3-2 and then again to secure victory as the tournament's most bizarre contest was finally brought to an end.

Belfast Telegraph

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