The tennis gods were smiling on Cincinnati Saturday, with four semifinal matches featuring a headline-worthy showdown between Roger Federer and Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic on the verge of another title and Serena Williams looking to keep her strong play going.
The world number one fell a break down early in the first set and, after restoring parity, immediately lost again on his own serve to put Dolgopolov on the path to victory in the opener.
After a week playing in the dark, with thunder and lightning for occasional companions, Andy Murray burst into the warm midwest sunlight on Friday afternoon and heads for New York this week with renewed vigour and a smile on his face.
Earlier, Djokovic overcame a lethargic start to wear down the unorthodox challenge of the Ukrainian qualifier Alexandr Dolgopolov 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 in two hours and 20 minutes, a longer assignment but not on a par with Federer’s win over Murray for consistency and quality.
Williams continued her strong rebound with another straight-set victory over Elina Svitolina in her semifinal match. “You have to beat him and go for the risk”, said Dolgopolov.
It proved a back-and-forth set, as breaks were exchanged between both players and Murray somehow found himself 5-4 up on his serve, eventually clinching things on his second match point with a ripping serve.
13 U.S. Open in New York, lost the first set but escaped a nervy second-set tiebreak in Cincinnati that appeared to take the wind out of his 66th-ranked opponent’s sails.
“Obviously (the) last couple of years it was always in the back of my mind, the potential history making, and obviously that motivates me even more”.
Novak Djokovic had to rally against a lowly qualifier to get another shot at a title he’s never won. The top-ranked female player has now reached her fifth tournament final this year, winning each of the first four.
“Physically it was tough to feel great”, Murray said.
“Today I thought I belonged there with my game. I’m excited for US Open“. “Yeah, I did well to come through that one because I wasn’t feeling great last night”.
Federer, nevertheless, held control of the key exchanges with wicked changes of direction and artful use of slice on both wings, as well as his recent habit of advancing to within just a few feet of the net on his opponent’s second serve.
To claim a first Cincinnati title, Djokovic will have to get past sixtime champion Federer.
But Djokovic said he’d have to do better against Federer.
“It was the best performance I had so far this week”, said Djokovic, who is 18-4 career against Wawrinka.