Djokovic hoping easy run pays dividends at US Open

Novak Djokovic believes his fresh legs could prove decisive at the US Open as the world number one closes in on a 13th grand slam title.

Djokovic takes on France’s Gael Monfils on Friday in the first of two semi-finals in Arthur Ashe Stadium, with Stan Wawrinka later playing sixth seed Kei Nishikori.

The Serb, however, is set to start with more energy in the tank than his rivals, having benefitted from three retirements en route to the last four and spending just six hours and 26 minutes on court.

His opponent Monfils has played almost 10 hours, despite managing not to drop a single set so far.

Djokovic has also been able to give invaluable rest to both his troublesome right elbow and left wrist, and the 29-year-old admits he has been invigorated by his time off.

“I’m not going to practise for three or four hours just to feel that kind of potential for the fifth set scenario,” Djokovic said.

“I’m just keeping the routine as it is. I’m glad I have had another two days to work on things.

“At this stage of the tournament and season, I think one of the most important things for a player is this freshness of the mind and of the body.

“It’s just having that right supply of substance in your body and the enduring strength that you need, the speed, the alertness.

“All these things come with time management. I’m really looking forward to come out on the court on Friday in semi-finals.”

With Andy Murray on a plane back to Scotland following defeat, Djokovic is now strong favourite to win his third title in New York, particularly as he boasts a perfect record against Monfils.

Djokovic has won all of their 12 previous meetings at Tour level and the Frenchman admits he faces a formidable task.

“He’s a better player than me, definitely. I think I have no shame to say it,” Monfils said.

“His consistency, his game, the way he hit the ball clean. So far it’s very hard to remember a match where he wasn’t hitting the ball clean, maybe one or two a year. It’s amazing.

“The way he handles every tactic that we try to make against him, I think so far he’s the best. I think he’s a great champion.”

Wawrinka knows what it takes to oust Djokovic, after he hammered the top seed in the French Open final last year.

That was one of two major triumphs for Wawrinka, who won his first at the Australian Open in 2014, and the Swiss insists he needs no extra motivation to chase a third this weekend.

“What else should I do?” Wawrinka said. “I’m 31 years old. What do you want me to do? Just go to the beach? Not do anything? I don’t know. Ask that question to Rafa (Nadal) also, or to Novak or to Andy.

“I think I love my sport. I enjoy playing tennis. It’s my passion. I started when I was really young.

“I have the chance to play in front of an amazing crowd, playing amazing matches like the semi-final against Juan Martin (Del Potro).

“If you just look at that match you have the answer. It’s an amazing feeling to be out there.”

Wawrinka faces an in-form Nishikori, who will be riding high after his shock victory over Murray, which was only his third success in 21 match-ups against players ranked in the top five.

The Japanese has gone largely under the radar so far and that is exactly how he likes it.

“I try to stay calm, that’s for sure,” Nishikori said. “I’m not the loudest guy on the tour. I’m more calm, I think in private too.

“I try to show my guts and everything, good energy on the court, but I think it’s most important there shouldn’t be too many up and downs, especially downs. I try to stay positive all the time.”

Press Association Sport

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