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U.S. Open Semis – Stars Against Surprises

Can Wawrinka and Gasquet prevent another meeting between Dajokovic and Nadal?  (Original photos: Getty Images; Montage: BATennis World)

Can Wawrinka and Gasquet prevent another meeting between Djokovic and Nadal?
(Original photos: Getty Images; Montage: BATennis World)

The U.S. Open men’s semifinals will get under way, today, under the New York sun, at noon sharp, and will oppose the two best players in the world to two of the tournament’s surprises.

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs [9] Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)

Head-to-head: Djokovic leads 12-2
Last meeting: 2013 Australian Open, round-of-16
Djokovic won 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 12-10

The first semifinal will oppose World n°1 Novak Djokovic to World n°10 Stanislas Wawrinka, and if there was a surprising run, it is that of the Swiss.

In the first round, Wawrinka defeated Radek Stepanek, against whom he had never won in four encounters, then faced giant server Ivo Karlovic, two straight-set wins, before taking on Marcos Baghdatis, and battling to upset World n°5 Tomaš Berdych. In the quarter-finals, Stan ousted defending champion Andy Murray in straight sets to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.

Of all the top 10 players, his was certainly the most difficult draw, and he reached the last four with flying colours.

As for Djokovic, he defeated Ricardas Berankis, Benjamin Becker, João Sousa, and Marcel Granollers, all with relative to great ease, before dropping his first set of the tournament to Mikhail Youzhny in a four-set quarter-final win.

Djokovic and Wawrinka last squared-off in what became one of the best matches of the season, a five-set thriller in the Melbourne evening, which the Serbian won by a hair in the decisive set, and which became an immense heartbreak for the Swiss.

Can things be different for “Stan the Man” today? Definitely. Since that Melbourne defeat, many things have changed for the 28-year-old, starting with a new coach, Magnus Norman, whom he brought on board in April with stunning results, including a return to the top 10 of the ATP World Tour.

Furthermore, Wawrinka will take the court today brimming with confidence and playing, without a doubt, the best tennis of his career.

For his part, Novak Djokovic will come to court, today, without having been particularly tested, except during his quarter-final match against Youzhny. He will assuredly be more rested, and he comes into this match playing some of his best tennis of the season.

Will we have another thriller between the two players? We can only hope so.

[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs [8] Richard Gasquet (FRA)

Head-to-head: Nadal leads 10-0
Last meeting: 2011 Davis Cup semifinals
Nadal won 6-3, 6-0, 6-1

On paper, the second semifinal looks like it will be a straightforward affair between Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet. Not only Gasquet has never defeated Nadal in 10 meetings to date, he also only took four sets from the Spaniard in total.

If the Frenchman won his first two matches, against Michael Russell and Stéphane Robert, in straight sets, he had to battle for four sets against Dmitry Tursunov, who retired at 4-2 in the fourth to a groin injury.

Then came two intense and difficult triumphs, when he edged Milos Raonic in a five-set battle in extreme conditions, then upset World n°4 David Ferrer in another five-set duel, to reach his first Major semifinal since Wimbledon 2007.

Rafael Nadal, for his part, dominated his way to the semifinals, defeating Ryan Harrison, Rogerio Dutra Silva, and Ivan Dodig in straight sets, before dropping his first set of the tournament to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the round-of-16, then crushing his countryman Tommy Robredo in the quarter-finals.

The Spaniard is yet to be broken in the tournament, as he held serve the 67 times he stepped onto the service line since the beginning of the Open, and has conceded only six break chances to his rivals.

If Gasquet is to have a chance today against such a dominating player, and to become the first one to beat Nadal on hard court this season, not only will he have to bring his best game, he will also have to step onto Arthur Ashe Stadium believing that he can do it. The latter is the most difficult part.

Truth be told, Nadal should make very short work of his rival and defeat him in straight sets.

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