NEW YORK (AP) — The game took 21 minutes. It lasted 30 points.
Novak Djokovic squandered five break points and lost that instant classic of a game but made his opponent, Stanislas Wawrinka, pay an awfully heavy price.
After dropping that epic third game of the final set Saturday, Djokovic broke the next time Wawrinka served, then didn't falter once he had the lead. The top-seeded Serb withstood a 4-hour, 9-minute onslaught of Wawrinka's massive groundstrokes to pull out a 2-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory and advance to his fourth straight final at the U.S. Open.
"I was thinking, I guess everyone was thinking, that whoever wins this game is going to win the match," Djokovic said. "I thought to myself, I guess I have to fight against those odds."
He did, to improve to 20-7 in five-set matches, and now the 2011 champion will go for his second U.S. Open title Monday against the winner of the later semifinal between No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 8 Richard Gasquet.
"I'm going to go try to recover," Djokovic said. "I'll grab some popcorn and watch (the second semifinal) on TV."
Maybe he should watch a replay of his own match.
It will be remembered for Game 3 of the final set, a back-and-forth roller coaster ride in which Djokovic had five opportunities to break for a 2-1 lead and lost them all.
Wawrinka had eight game points. Before the last, he gestured to the crowd to pump up the volume. Sensing the opportunity, Djokovic hammed it up, as well. Wawrinka followed that well-deserved break in the action with a 123-mph service winner up the middle.
Walking gingerly to his chair afterward, Wawrinka sat down and smiled throughout the break.
A set earlier, he needed a medical timeout to get his right thigh taped. How much longer could he possibly last? Especially against Djokovic, whose road to No. 1 has been highlighted by an improved diet and a focus on fitness that has made him, by almost every account, the most physically prepared player in the game.
Turns out Wawrinka did make Djokovic work for it. But his 57 winners, — 26 from the forehand side — weren't enough to get past Djokovic's fast-footed defense.