Entering New York with injury concerns severe enough that his team debated whether or not he should play, Djokovic labored into the semifinals despite only completing two matches. His health a lingering question mark throughout the tournament, the top seed caught a massive break by stumbling into all that extra rest.
Playing in high heat and humidity, Djokovic and Gael Monfils gave fans a piece of performance art that won't soon be forgotten.
Djokovic prevailed 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 but only after some zany, unconventional gamesmanship from Monfils, who calmly ordered a can of Coca-Cola mid-match and looked to be tanking at certain moments. With Djokovic racing out to a quick 5-0 lead as Monfils kept hitting double-faults and errant shots, the Frenchman suddenly went to the rope-a-dope maneuver. And it worked. Thrown off his game by Monfils' unorthodox and nonchalant approach, the world No. 1 had to regroup before letting the set slip away. The wackiness only magnified with each passing moment, but the quality of the match turned for the better in the third set.
Shaking off an early break, Monfils climbed back to steal the set. In frustration, Djokovic tore his own shirt, a stark contrast to the even-keeled Monfils.
On the other end of the spectrum was the tame (in comparison) semifinal between Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori. Fresh off his win over Murray, Nishikori surged to an early lead and looked to be in control of the match. But the notoriously streaky Wawrinka picked the right time to go on one of his runs. Playing more aggressively, he grabbed a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 win over Nishikori to book a date in the final, a somewhat-unexpected result considering his up-and-down form entering the U.S. Open.
"I was struggling," the New York Times' David Waldstein quoted Wawrinka as saying. "I was suffering on the court first set, second set, and all the match. But I just knew that it was important not to show it." As the match progressed, Wawrinka raised his level and adjusted his tactics to turn the match in his favor. Fighting a hungry Nishikori in sweltering conditions (and later under a closed roof), Wawrinka proved the stronger player.
From Wawrinka's standpoint, it's important to note that he's 10-0 in his last 10 finals appearances, including the 2014 Australian Open and 2015 French Open. When he gets to this stage, the Stanimal's been absolutely money. Wawrinka at 3.44 on Pinnaclesports
surely doesn't look like mission impossible.