Best matches of the 2016 US Open

There are 254 matches played in a Grand Slam tournament, not factoring walkovers, retirements and whatever else might have befallen Novak Djokovic’s opponents during the 2016 US Open, with great tennis spread across the grounds and throughout the fortnight.

Here are the six top tilts from this year’s US Open:

Kerber – Pliskova: Women’s Final

It was an inauspicious start and a thrilling finish, a compelling contest that registers as one of the finest finals of the Open era. When the streamers came down and the trophies were awarded, it was the new No. 1 who was the one woman left standing. Angelique Kerber won the women’s singles title on the tournament’s final Saturday, gutting out a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over No. 10 seed Karolina Pliskova. The 6-foot-1 Czech, a power-playing baseliner with one of the best serves in women’s tennis, got off to an awful start, gifting a first-game break behind a double fault and two easy misses. That was all Kerber would need to claim the opening frame, with the German committing just three unforced errors to 17 for Pliskova.

But the 24-year-old steadied herself and turned the tables on Kerber, her power seeming to keep the No. 2 seed off balance, as she charged to the second set and a 3-1 lead in the final stanza. There is no pressure like trying to close out a Grand Slam title, however, and the 24-year-old seemed burdened by it down the stretch. Kerber broke to make it 3-3, then threaded a forehand down the line to go up 4-3. A pair of holds would ensue, forcing Pliskova to serve to stay in the match. She could not. In the end, Kerber broke at love, falling to the court in Arthur Ashe Stadium and rising as the 2016 US Open women’s champion.

Murray – Nishikori: Men’s Quarterfinals

For four hours, Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori engaged in a five-set ode to grit, guile and ground strokes. When the dust settled, the 5-foot-10 Nishikori stood tall – and Murray was heading home. It was a stunning turn for the No. 2 seed, who had played flawless tennis just the round earlier and was considered, along with Novak Djokovic, the primary contender for the men’s title. But the indefatigable Nishikori, owner of impeccable ground strokes and the fleetest feet in men’s tennis, displayed his very best in this one, rebounding from a slow start to make it a match and taking advantage of a Murray mental walkabout to take home the victory.

Oddly, the most important point in their showdown turned out to be one that didn’t count. Murray held a break opportunity at 1-1, 30-40, in the fourth set, but play during the ensuing point was disrupted by noise, with the chair umpire calling a let and ordering it replayed. The Scot, who had the upper hand in the exchange, was incensed, then distracted. He dropped the next seven games as Nishikori took control. He relented briefly, allowing Murray to get back on serve in the decider, but was the tougher competitor down the stretch. And in a match that featured 17 breaks, the Japanese claimed the clincher, serving it out one game later to post a 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory in one of the tournament’s finest encounters.

Pliskova – V. Williams: Women’s Fourth Round

For three sets and two-and-a-half hours, the two lanky, 6-foot-plus big-hitters cornered flat forehands and penetrating backhands, each trying to master the best possible version of very similar games. When the ball fuzz settled, Karolina Pliskova had ensured there would be no all-Williams semifinal at the 2016 US Open. The No.10 seed, making her first appearance in a Grand Slam round of 16, booked her maiden spot in a major round of 8 by outlasting two-time champion and No. 6 seed Venus Williams in an instant classic, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.

The third set seesawed back and forth, with Pliskova racing out to 4-2, only to see Venus rebound to earn a match point at 5-4 on Pliskova’s serve. But the Czech dug out, then broke, then pulled ahead to triple match point, serving up 6-5, 40-0. This time it was Venus who carried the day, following a Pliskova double fault, by cracking four consecutive winners to force the tiebreak. Venus, though, could not summon a second wave. Pliskova may be a novice at this stage of a major, but the 2015 Emirates Airline US Open Series champion is an accomplished performer – and she demonstrated her pedigree in the breaker, finally closing out Venus on her fifth match point, 7-3, the tipping point in her stunning run to the final.

Nadal – Pouille: Men’s Fourth Round

From the jump, Lucas Pouille showed he belonged. Unfazed by the arena – the 24,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium – and the opponent – 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal – the French rising star came out delivering booming shots from every wing and every angle. The first set was over before Nadal could get his teeth into the match, and from there. the slugfest was on. Nadal dominated the second set much the way Pouille did the first, but rather than shrinking in the face of the Spaniard’s surge, the No. 24 seed rose to the occasion. He won the third set and had chances in the fourth, with too many errors creeping in, as Nadal once again righted the ship.

It got only more dramatic from there. Nadal broke to open the fifth set and seemed to have the match in hand until, suddenly, stunningly, he didn’t. Pouille broke back to make it 4-4, and each player stepped up to hold serve and force the fifth-set breaker. Pouille pulled out to a 6-3 lead in the decider, but Nadal fought back even, saving all three match points. At 6-6, Nadal had an easy forehand put-away, the kind of shot he has struck without thought to win matches and tournaments all over the globe. But this one found the net. Pouille had his opening, and he took advantage, closing out the upset one point later with a devastating forehand into Nadal’s backhand corner. And with that, the two-time champion was gone, and the Open had its newest breakout star.

Evans – Wawrinka: Men’s Third Round

In the no-question tilt of the tournament through four sets – and still one of the best in total – upstart Brit Daniel Evans and No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka matched pounding ground strokes, clutch shots and inspirational arm tattoos over four hours, highlighted by a high-wire fourth-set tiebreak that featured a match point for Evans, a great escape by Wawrinka and a sigh of relief for Swiss tennis fans. The fifth set didn’t do the match justice, as Evans struggled to maintain his concentration and his incredibly high level of play, but the end result was stunning nonetheless: a 4-6, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 victory for the eventual champion.

The third and fourth sets, in particular, were riveting tennis, with Evans cutting slices to blunt Wawrinka’s signature one-handed backhand and charging the net with abandon. But in the end, the Swiss persevered, advancing to the fourth round in Flushing Meadows for the fifth consecutive year. And in terms of those tattoos, Wawrinka’s says: “Ever tried, ever failed. No matter. Try again, fail better;” Evans: “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.”

Mladenovic – Pavlyuchenkova: Women’s Second Round

For two sets, 2015 quarterfinalist Kristina Mladenovic and No. 17 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova battled in a fine match. Their third set, however, took it to another level. The two big-hitting baseliners exchanged blows over an absurd 94-minute final frame, trading games until the Russian finally snuck to a 5-3 lead. It wouldn’t hold. The Frenchwoman broke back and pushed the match to a tiebreak that played out in similarly topsy-turvy fashion.

Pavlyuchenkova sprinted to a 3-0 lead in the breaker, only to see Mladenovic take the next four points. And so it went to 5-5, where Mladenovic finally cracked, offering up back-to-back forehand errors to allow the 2006 US Open girls’ champion to fight through to the third round for the first time since 2013. Final score: 2-6, 6-4, 7-6. The final count stood as testament to this even-handed affair: 125 points, 41 winners and 45 unforced errors for Pavlyuchenkova to 124 points, 43 winners and 41 errors for Mladenovic.

Andy Murray admits he 'needs a break and he needs it now

Andy Murray says he is itching for a break after an exhausting few months, following Great Britain's 3-2 defeat to Argentina in the dramatic Davis Cup semi-final.

The 29-year-old had a non-stop summer when he reached the French Open final, followed by his second Wimbledon triumph, before successfully defending his Olympic gold in Rio.

A tired Murray then lost to Japan's Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals of the US Open.

Murray was involved in both the singles and doubles matches in the Davis Cup semi-final defeat against Argentina, including a five-hour marathon against Juan Martin del Potro.

'I have played so much tennis in the last few months, I need a break and I need it now,' Murray was quoted as saying by The Times.

'I knew I was going to be in some pain this weekend and I spoke to my team about that it was going to be really hard. But my expectations were less than what I'm feeling now.'

Murray is next scheduled to play in the China Open, which starts on October 3, followed by the Shanghai Masters.

Sings of fatigue began to tell after complaints of a thigh injury during his straight sets win against Guido Pella, and the world No 2 admits he was concerned.

'I've never really had any muscle injuries before. That was worrying for me and thankfully I managed to get it done in straight sets,' Murray said.

Great Britain were knocked out of the Davis Cup on Sunday evening after Leonardo Mayer beat Dan Evans in four sets to complete a 3-2 victory.

Cyber hackers publish medical data for Farah, Nadal and Rose

Olympic champions Mo Farah, Rafael Nadal and Justin Rose were among athletes targeted on Monday in the latest leak of confidential medical documents that the world anti-doping agency (WADA) says were hacked by a Russian cyber espionage group.

Britain's Farah became only the second man to retain the 5,000 and 10,000 metres Olympic titles at the Rio de Janeiro Games last month while compatriot Rose won the first gold medal in golf for 112 years.

Spaniard Nadal, a 14-times tennis grand slam winner, won Olympic men's doubles gold with Marc Lopez. He also won the men's singles title at the 2008 Beijing Games but missed London 2012 due to a knee injury.

WADA has said it believes the hackers, named as APT28 and Fancy Bears, gained access to its anti-doping administration and management system (ADAMS) via an IOC-created account for the Rio Games.

Documents relating to Farah, and published on the website, showed that the distance runner had no active Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) at the time of the Olympics.

He received intravenous infusions of saline solution, morphine sulphate and vicodin administered orally during a period in hospital between July 3-5, 2014 when he had collapsed after a training run.

Prior to that, he was given a TUE for an 80mg dosage of the corticosteroid triamcinolone in October 2008.

Rose had authorisation for daily dosages of the anti-inflammatory drug prednisolone between May this year and June 20.

The documents relating to Nadal, who was out for more than two months with a wrist injury that forced him to miss the French Open and Wimbledon before the Olympics, showed exemptions in 2009 and 2012.

The fourth release of data so far concerned 26 athletes from Argentina, Belgium, Burundi, Canada, Denmark, France, Britain, Hungary, Spain and the United States.

Other high-profile names included Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba, British cyclist Callum Skinner and double Olympic rowing gold medallist Helen Glover.

TUEs allow athletes to take banned substances for verified medical needs and there is no suggestion any of those named have broken any rules.

WADA has said the "criminal attack" has recklessly exposed personal data in an attempt to smear reputations.

The agency has also said it believes the attacks are being carried out as retaliation for investigations that exposed state-sponsored doping in Russia.

Fancy Bear has previously posted data for U.S. athletes Simone Biles, Elena Delle Donne, and Serena and Venus Williams as well as Tour de France-winning British cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.

Andy Murray misses grandfather's funeral to play for Great Britain in Davis Cup

Andy Murray will miss his grandfather's funeral on Friday in order to play for Great Britain against Argentina in the Davis Cup.

Murray will face Juan Martin Del Potro in a repeat of his Olympic singles final in Rio at the semi-final in Glasgow.

Gordon Murray, the father of Andy and his brother Jamie's dad Willie, died last week and Jamie - who is not required to play until Saturday's doubles rubber - will attend the funeral instead.

Andy missed the pre-tie press conference on Thursday as he attended a family gathering instead but Jamie was present.

The world No 2 should play on all three days of the tie after the only other doubles option - Dom Inglot - was left out in favour of Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans.

The Brits - who won the Davis Cup for the for time in 79 years last November against Belgium - are bidding to reach the final once more against either France or Croatia.

Andy Murray has admitted to fatigue after a hectic summer schedule which saw him lost just one match in 34 at one stage, a run spanning more than four months.

British captain Leon Smith said: "We saw last year in the semi-final against Australia, you could see Andy was fatigued and he still found a way to do it.

"He's a very robust guy, both physically and mentally, so don't be surprised to see him do it."

Murray's Friday tie against Del Potro is unusual in the sense the big singles tie between the two top players normally takes place on the Sunday.

The Argentinian is still working his way back up the rankings after wrist problems, however, and is therefore ranked at present as his country's third-best player.

Nevertheless, the reality is he is a man on form after his run to the final in Rio and the last eight at the US Open, where he lost to the eventual winner Stan Wawrinka.

Argentina captain Daniel Orsanic has no qualms in declaring Del Potro his side's most important player and said: "Without a doubt.

"I think he's going through a very good moment. His comeback I think is good for the world of tennis so you can imagine what it means for us Argentinians."

Del Potro added: "I will try to play a different match from Rio. It's going to be really tough but I'm looking forward to (producing) the surprise."

Tennis: Murray hoping to build on best season of career against Argentina

Andy Murray says he is hoping to build on the best year of his career by leading Great Britain past Argentina to their second consecutive Davis Cup final.

The Scot spearheaded Team GB's charge to Davis Cup glory last year when their defeat of Belgium in the final saw them claim victory in the competition for the first time in 79 years.

The 29-year-old is in the form of his career having already won a second Wimbledon title, a second Olympic gold medal and reached the final of the Australian and French Opens this season.

Captain Leon Smith's team go into this weekend's semi-final clash against Argentina at Glasgow's Emirates Arena as favourites to progress to the final where they will face either France or Croatia.

The best-of-five tie opens with two singles rubbers on Friday, followed by the doubles rubber on Saturday and the reverse singles on Sunday.

Murray goes into the tie having suffered the disappointment of being knocked out in the quarter-finals of the US Open by Kei Nishikori in New York last week, but the world number two says he will dig deep for "one more big push" to help his side as they bid to successfully defend their title.

"I took a few days off after New York and came here and I've been practising since Sunday. I get a little break after I'm finished here so one more big push this weekend," Murray said.

"At the end of last year, Davis Cup for all of us was a priority but I don't think at the beginning of the year we expected to win the event.

"But as you get closer and closer you want to make the most of the opportunity and we want to do it again this year if possible. It's going to be hard and I want to win all the events I can.

"It's been the best year of my career so far and I hope I can keep it going."

Murray is expected to partner big brother Jamie, who clinched his second Grand Slam of the season with the men's doubles title in New York, in the doubles as he looks set to play three times in three days against Argentina.

Smith is still to decide on his second singles player with his squad in such fine form.

Kyle Edmund impressed many with a solid run to the fourth round at the US Open, while he stepped up in Murray's absence to claim two singles matches victories in the quarter-final defeat of Serbia in the summer.

However, Dan Evans was also in good form in New York as he succumbed to eventual champion Stan Wawrinka following a five-set battle in the third round.

- Resurgent -

The key rubber of the tie will pit Murray against a resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro just weeks after the Scot defeated his Argentine rival to Olympic gold following an epic battle in Rio.

Del Potro hasn't played a singles rubber in the Davis Cup for four years following three wrist operations that almost saw him quit the game.

The 27-year-old's ranking is still recovering following two years away from the game and he finds himself ranked below teammates Federico Delbonis and Guido Pella.

Argentina captain Daniel Orsanic has still to decide whether he will face Murray in Friday or Sunday's rubber but Del Potro, who lost out to eventual champion Wawrinka in the quarter-finals of the US Open, said he would be ready

"I think I've found my way in the game again," the Argentine said.

"I'm feeling good and excited to be here. To be in another semi-final for our country, is amazing. The captain will decide who is going to play against Andy on the first day, but we are all ready."

Argentina are looking to win their first Davis Cup having suffered three defeats in the past ten years to Russia in 2006 and to Spain in 2008 and 2011.

Novak Djokovic says his US Open tennis timeouts were caused by bleeding toenails

TV commentator John McEnroe speculated that Novak Djokovic's controversial US Open tennis final timeouts could have been caused by cramping, but Djokovic insisted it was bleeding toenails. 

A trainer gives Novak Djokovic medical treatment on a toe during a controversial moment of the US Open men's singles final.

You can't get treatment on court for cramp, so it was the big talking point of the final, other than the fact that the world No 1 was beaten by his buddy Stan Wawrinka, 6-7(1) 6-4 7-5 6-3, in a hard-fought four hour battle.

.At times they didn't look like buddies, most notably in the second game of the fourth set when Djokovic began grimacing in pain during his service game and hobbling between points.

Djokovic called a controversial medical break when down 1-3 in the fourth set, and a trainer went to work taping up his toes.

McEnroe, commentating for ESPN, suggested Djokovic was getting leg cramps, the kind of injury that is not eligible for treatment by a trainer on court.

Djokovic insisted cramping was not the problem. "Just the toenails were off and bleeding. It was quite painful to move around," he told reporters.

"Stan, sorry man," said Djokovic to Wawrinka. "I couldn't stand, sorry."

The first medical timeout lasted about six minutes and he took one more, just before serving to stay in the match at 2-5. That one lasted about four minutes, The Los Angeles Times reported.

McEnroe's brother, Patrick, also an ESPN commentator, said it was a "complete abuse of the rules." Djokovic said he was allowed to take it, so he did.

Wawrinka asked the chair umpire what was going on when the first injury timeout came right before his serve, which was not on a changeover. Despite the timing - coming at such a critical juncture - he managed to hold his serve and his nerve.

Though Djokovic emerged from the medical break with more spring in his step, he was not able to break Wawrinka again, a persistent problem that may have cost him the match as he converted only three of his 17 break point opportunities.

Wawrinka's win posed the question of whether the big four of Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray was now a big five, The Los Angeles Times said.

"He deserves to be in the mix, no doubt about it," Djokovic, who was generous in praise of his opponent, said. "Stan won three Grand Slams now and three different ones ... and he plays the best in big matches."

"The Big Four, I'm really far from them," Wawrinka said. "Just look at the tournaments they've won, how many years they've been there. ... I'm proud of myself by winning three Grand Slams. This is something I never expect and dream about. But I have them and I'm happy to take the trophy back home."

They Said It: Top quotes from Day 13 - Angelique Kerber At US Open

Whether speaking in on-court interviews or at press conferences after their matches, the world's top tennis players always have some interesting things to say. Here are some of the best quotes from Day 13 at the US Open:

“You have to believe in your dreams.” — Angelique Kerber

“When I was a kid, I was always dreaming to one day be the No. 1 player in the world, to win Grand Slams. And today is the day. All the dreams came true this year.” — Angelique Kerber

“She was always my idol.” — Angelique Kerber on Steffi Graf, the last German to win the US Open (1996)

“I was a lot of hours on the practice courts, sweating and everything, and you are just playing for this moment of being on center court in the final with that amazing crowd.” — Angelique Kerber

“To hold this trophy, it's…I mean, I can't say it in words, actually.” — Angelique Kerber

“Just to see her grow in confidence and have all these Top 10 wins in the last month shows you she belongs and she's the real deal.” — Mary Joe Fernandez on US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova

“She doesn't just play defense anymore.” — Mary Joe Fernandez on Angelique Kerber

“You have to embrace it. If you're going to be a champion, if you're going to do well, you want the pressure. Billie Jean King famous quote: ‘Pressure is a privilege.’ The better you get, the more pressure there is.” — Mary Joe Fernandez

“I think it's not a changing of the guard, but it's definitely a narrowing of the field.” — Martina Navratilova on Angelique Kerber’s rise to No. 1

“Two weeks is a lot of time. A lot of tennis gets played. A lot of tough moments. You have to find a way to get through them if you want to get to the finals and have a chance to lift the trophy.” — Jamie Murray, who won the US Open men’s doubles title with Bruno Soares

“I'm so proud of myself. If someone would tell me I'm going to play finals in this tournament two weeks ago, I would take it.” — US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova

“She deserves to be No. 1.” — Karoline Pliskova on Angelique Kerber

Djokovic, Wawrinka bring the Open to a close

The curtain comes down Sunday afternoon on the 2016 US Open, with a championship match that features the game’s No. 1 player against a man playing in his first career Flushing final. After a bruising two weeks in which 126 others fell by the wayside, this day will feature a final showdown between two proven champs—each with just a little more left to prove. Top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic takes on No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka in the final act of what has been two weeks of high drama. At day’s end, one player will own the stage—and tennis’ toughest title. With so much on the line and so much talent between the lines, this final act promises to close the Open in style.

If you were handicapping this event a couple of months ago, you might well have predicted that its final would feature Djokovic against a Swiss star—but probably not this Swiss star. But with five-time US Open champion Roger Federer sidelined from this year’s event, rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, his countryman Wawrinka has risen to the occasion, making his way into the US Open final for the first time in his career.

Though this is his debut in the Open’s title match, Wawrinka is no stranger to Grand Slam glory. The 31-year-old has two Slam titles on his resume, including the 2014 Australian Open and the 2015 French. Here, the Swiss had twice before reached the semis, but each time, his advance was halted in that round.

Wawrinka has had a solid season, winning three titles—two of those on hard courts. His best pre-Open Slam showing in 2016 was a run to the semis at Roland Garros. Competing here in his 47th consecutive Grand Slam main draw, Wawrinka is one of the sport’s most durable—and ferocious—competitors. Including his first six matches here, he is now 118-44 at the majors and 237-135 on hard courts.

Wawrinka’s toughness and durability have been on full display throughout this event. Only two of his matches have been won in straight sets. One went five; three others went four, including his gutsy, gritty win over 2014 US Open finalist Kei Nishikori in the semis here on Friday. In that match, Wawrinka seemed overmatched by Nishikori’s speed and quickness in the first set but regrouped in the second and let his toughness take over, outhitting, out-hustling and eventually out-lasting the Japanese star to secure the four-set win. In the oppressive heat and humidity, Wawrinka refused to wilt, and his fitness and focus were the difference in separating himself from his increasingly fatigued opponent. Wawrinka may go through more towels than a pool boy at a Miami Beach hotel, but he’ll never throw one in, fighting for every point like a pit bull with designs on a T-bone.

Defending champ Djokovic, competing in his 48th consecutive Slam, can be a pretty impressive marathon man in his own right, boasting a 27-8 lifetime mark in five-set matches, including a perfect 2-0 record in going the distance this year. Of course, during this Flushing fortnight, his long-distance endurance has yet to be tested. In a bizarre set of circumstances, the men’s top seed has played only three complete matches in reaching this point; advancing through the second round with a walkover and winning his third-round and quarterfinal matches when his opponents were forced to retire with injuries. In gaining his 21st career Slam final—second only to Federer all-time—the 29-year-old Serb has spent a total of just eight hours, 58 minutes on court. Conversely, Wawrinka has logged 17 hours, 54 minutes of court time.

Although the game’s No. 1 leads all men with seven titles on the year, including winning the Australian Open and Roland Garros, a nagging wrist injury caused Djokovic to struggle this summer, losing in the third round of Wimbledon and the first round at the Rio Olympics. But here, he’s shown no ill effects from the wrist in the handful of matches he’s played, hitting the ball off both wings with authority. He’s won 50 of 59 service games, 73 percent of first-serve points and has 108 winners against 88 unforced errors. In rallies of five to eight shots, the Serb has won 111 and lost 72; in rallies of nine or more shots, Djokovic is 53-28. Those numbers figure to loom large against a ground game as potent as Wawrinka’s.

In his uneven semifinal win over Frenchman Gael Monfils, Djokovic seemed very much on top of his game in racing out to a 5-0 lead and taking the first two sets, as the Frenchman mixed up his tactics, alternately playing rope-a-dope with the top seed, while going all out on other shots. But with the day’s heat and humidity weighing heavily upon both men, Djokovic dropped the third set before securing the 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 triumph.

While the match may not have been pretty (Djokovic had just 26 winners against 27 unforced errors), the win lifted the Serb into his seventh US Open final, tying him with Federer and Jimmy Connors for third-most in the Open era.

The top seed, trying to become the first man to successfully defend a US Open title since Federer went back-to-back in 2007-08, owns a lopsided 19-4 advantage over the Swiss, including wins here in 2012 (fourth round) and 2013 (quarterfinals).

A win for Djokovic would mark his 13th major crown, breaking the tie at 12 he now holds with Roy Emerson, putting him behind only Federer, Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras on the list of all-time men’s major title holders. Wawrinka, in a Slam final for the third year in a row, is looking to become just the fifth man in the Open era to win two or more Slam singles titles after turning 30.

This will be a good one, the sort of heavyweight slugfest that usually has ropes around it. In a furious four, Djokovic is still standing to answer the bell—and accept the title of 2016 US Open men’s champion.

Novak Djokovic vs Stan Wawrinka big-game talents in US Open 2016 Final

Defending champion Novak Djokovic owns a 19-4 career head-to-head advantage over Stan Wawrinka.

World number one Novak Djokovic has enjoyed a whirlwind trip to Sunday’s U.S. Open final, but the top-seeded Serb expects hard work ahead when he meets Stan Wawrinka at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Defending champion Djokovic, who became the third man to hold all four grand slam singles titles at once after his triumph at Roland Garros in June, owns a 19-4 career head-to-head advantage over the Swiss third seed.

He leads 4-2 in grand slam meetings against Wawrinka, with three of Djokovic’s victories going five sets, including a memorable 2013 Australian Open fourth-rounder decided 12-10 in the fifth set.

“He’s a big match player. He loves to play in the big stage against big players, because that’s when he elevates his level of performance,” said 12-times slam winner Djokovic. “He just gets much better.”

Gifted by a second-round walkover and two retirements along the way, Djokovic has spent less than nine hours on court, completing 13 sets through six rounds at
Flushing Meadows, reaching the final 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-2 over 10th seed Gael Monfils.

The hard-working Wawrinka has been on court twice as long, 17 hours, 54 minutes, playing 23 sets.

He advanced 4-6 7-5 6-4 6-2 over sixth seed Kei Nishikori after surviving a match point in his five set, third-round match against unseeded Daniel Evans of Britain.

The ‘big match’ Warwinka, whose indefatigable determination brought him the nickname “Stanimal”, has won his last 10 finals.

The contrasting path to the final suits both players.

Wawrinka prefers to build momentum in order to bring his best at the finish.

“We’ve had many big memories together, especially in grand slams, so it’s going to be an exciting match,” said Wawrinka, who is playing his first U.S. final and beat
Djokovic on the way to his slam titles at the 2014 Australian Open and 2015 French.

“Because the biggest matches, it’s the end of the tournament. Final, semi-final, and I had matches to get confidence to play well match after match.”

Djokovic came to Flushing Meadows showing signs of wear and tear after losing in the third round at Wimbledon and the first round at the Rio Olympics while dealing with a nagging wrist injury, and considers his relatively easy ride a “blessing”.

“Before this grand slam there were things that were happening with my health and physical state that were making me a little bit sceptical…

“I was blessed to have more days off with no match so I could focus on the recovery and work things in my game and take things easily and to get to this phase,” said 29-year-old Djokovic.

“I don’t have any (physical) concerns. I have lots of excitement for the finals.”

Wawrinka, 31, thinks their differing styles helped make many of their matches memorable.

“I think the matchup always been interesting to see because the way we are playing,” said the Swiss, who owns a devastating one-hand backhand stroke. “I’m trying to be aggressive. I can play really hard.

“He is amazing defender.

“When you play Novak, even playing your best tennis you can also lose. So it’s gonna be, I hope, a big match, and hopefully I can keep winning.”