Novak Djokovic reaches US Open semi-finals by reaching final against Roger Federer

Novak Djokovic broke down in tears, at times completely oblivious to the hullabaloo, that filled Arthur Ashe Stadium the last time he lifted the US Open trophy in 2015. His fourth victory is not…

Novak Djokovic reaches US Open semi-finals by reaching final against Roger Federer

Novak Djokovic broke down in tears, at times completely oblivious to the hullabaloo, that filled Arthur Ashe Stadium the last time he lifted the US Open trophy in 2015. His fourth victory is not one of those moments. Oh no. Not this time. Not after tears for his Belgrade hometown, the adoration for his great, great, great dad who died this year, and the fiery start to his U.S. Open campaign, which so many thought would see Djokovic become the first man in 41 years to reach three consecutive US Open finals. At 4-4 in the first set of a quarter-final against Marin Cilic, he ran down a lob from the Croatian with one hand and punched the air – heart racing. Djokovic had just won two difficult points and stood to close out the set after Cilic netted a backhand – but then he broke down in tears.

“This one, this one’s for my Belgrade,” he said afterward. “You’re the reason why I came here, the reason why I dreamt of winning this trophy.

“You had the biggest influence on my life, the biggest influence on my tennis career, because you supported me unconditionally and have believed in me when I had lowest moments and you have supported me when I reached my highest heights.”

For someone who has seemed invincible, he has fallen from grace. For someone who has seemed apart from the game, he has been made to make many compatriots sweat. But the ending was just too good. Winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in three hours and 22 minutes. It set up a possible playoff with the world number one Roger Federer for the year-end top ranking.

He will likely have to beat Cilic, who shocked the game with his win over Andy Murray in their quarter-final. Ranked third, Djokovic is the lowest-ranked winner of the US Open since 1927. He is now ranked 14th in the world and will drop to 17th should Cilic beat Federer in the semis.

Djokovic extended his streak of reaching the final in all four majors – the other three being the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon – to 27 consecutive Grand Slam appearances.

The crowd seems to like it when he hits big. Many who booed him during his second-round loss, which ended in just 39 minutes, cheered him on here. Djokovic talked all week about how bad he wanted this particular trophy. He has won three titles in New York and lost twice in the final in the past. He won his first major title here in 2007 and was a finalist in 2010 and 2011.

Djokovic changed his racket for the first time in his career and is now in a solid 3-1 head-to-head with Cilic. But he has had too much power for the 6ft 5in Croat.

He has now won three US Open titles in three years, which is an impressive streak that is likely to lead to more. He did not talk to the media after his win. But he spoke at the trophy presentation, looking teary-eyed and trying to fight back tears as he kissed his mother.

Djokovic’s support system is indeed cheering him on and cheering off him. His practice partner is Ivan Lendl, the four-time Grand Slam champion who coached Djokovic for two years but not since January. He went to coach Federer instead. It was his second year coaching Djokovic – his first was in 2011. And his input seemed to help here.

He also was accompanied by his longtime coach Marian Vajda. They are just two of the dozens of people who have supported the 29-year-old Djokovic this year. He thanked Vajda and Federer. He thanked his wife, Jelena, for her undying support. “I want to thank her for her patience and understanding of all this,” he said. “She’s been going through a rough time. For her and my whole family, I want to thank you for all your patience and understanding.”

He even thanked the crowd, who were disappointed he played instead of doing a song for the national anthem. “I will do that one day,” he said, laughing.

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