History repeated itself in extraordinary fashion here last night as Novak Djokovic once again saved two match points before beating Roger Federer in a five-set epic in the US Open semi-finals. Twelve months after coming from two sets to one down to beat the Swiss at the same stage of the tournament, Djokovic went one better, recovering after losing the first two sets to triumph 6-7 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5.
The two men have met in the semi-finals of four of the last five Grand Slam tournaments and Djokovic's only defeat was at the French Open, a result that ended his 43-match winning run. Once again they produced a match of the highest quality, striking the ball with breath-taking power and precision.
Djokovic, who will play the winner of last night's meeting between Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal in tomorrow's final, is enjoying one of the most remarkable years in tennis history. The 24-year-old Serb has lost only two of his 65 matches during a season in which he has already won nine titles, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
"It was definitely my biggest win of this year, one of the biggest wins of my career under the circumstances," Djokovic said afterwards. "I was two sets down, Roger was in control and playing better, but then I switched gears and I managed to play much better in the last three sets."
Before Wimbledon, Federer had never lost from two sets up in 178 matches in Grand Slam tournaments, but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga recovered to beat him at the All England Club and now Djokovic has handed out the same treatment here. This isthe first year since 2002 that the 30-year-old Swiss has not won a Grand Slam title.
For two sets, nevertheless, Federer had looked back to his best. The Swiss played an excellent first set tie-break and broke twice in the second set to take command. Djokovic, however, started to strike the ball more freely in the third set and it was not long before the world No 1 had levelled the match.
Federer recovered well in the decider and broke to lead 5-3 when Djokovic played his worst service game. The Swiss had his two match points when serving at 40-15 in the next game, but Djokovic hit a huge forehand return winner on the first and on the second a Federer forehand hit the top of the net.
When Federer went on to serve a double fault on break point the momentum had switched decisively. Two games later Djokovic broke again, securing the game with an inside-out forehand winner after a wonderful rally in which the Serb had cleverly manoeuvred himself into a position of strength.
Djokovic, who has lost in both of his previous appearances in the final here, to Federer in 2007 and to Nadal last year, made no mistake when serving out for victory, converting his first match point after three hours and 51 minutes when Federer put a backhand return long.
Asked about his stunning return on the first match point, Djokovic said: "If it goes in, it goes in. It's a risk. Last year it was a very similar situation – he was two match points up and I was hitting a forehand just as hard as I could. You're gambling: if it's out, you lose and if it's in, maybe you have a chance."
Oliver Golding will this afternoon become the first Briton to play in the final of the boys' event here since Murray won the title in 2004. The 17-year-old from Richmond beat a fellow Briton, George Morgan, 6-0, 7-6 in the semi-finals. Three Britons made the last four, but Kyle Edmund lost 6-4, 6-2 to the Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely, who is the top seed and world junior No 1.
Golding said: "I've been in a couple of [grand slam] doubles finals before and one singles semi so it's great to get to my first final."
Vesely is Golding's regular doubles partner and the pair reached the final here last year and at Wimbledon in July but surprisingly they have never played a competitive singles match.