Demanding action and prolonged points prove too much for fading Scot against top seed
Through a pair of back-and-forth sets, tennis aces Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray put on a display befitting a matchup of past US Open champions.
They tracked down would-be winners and somehow got them back, prolonging points that involved 10 or 20 strokes or more, extended by Serb Djokovic's slides and splits or Murray's gifted anticipation.
After one 30-shot masterpiece on his way to victory, Djokovic raised his right fist, bellowed, "Come on!" and windmilled his arms to rile up the crowd.
Eventually, the physically demanding action proved too much for the fading Scot Murray, and Djokovic pulled away to win 7-6,, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4 and reach the tournament's semifinals for the eighth consecutive year.
"I knew coming into tonight's match that it's going to be tough, that he's going to go for his shots, and the more aggressive one would win it," No1 seed Djokovic said.
"I'm glad I managed to stay fit in the end and pull it through."
Asked in an on-court interview to look ahead to facing 10th-seeded Kei Nishikori, of Japan, in the semifinals, Djokovic joked: "My thoughts are just directed to sleeping right now."
That drew guffaws from spectators, and he continued: "Or party. What do you say? Let's party. I think my coach right there would chase me with a little baseball bat if he saw me going to the city to party right now."
Nishikori was warned by tough taskmaster coach Michael Chang not to be satisfied with his country's once-in-a-century US Open performance and to target the title.
The 24-year-old yesterday became the first Japanese man since 1918 to make the semifinals in New York.
But Chang, himself a grand slam title winner at the 1989 French Open, told the 10th seed that his work was not completed after his epic 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 quarter-final win over Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
"He's telling me to stay focused in the match and never get frustrated too much and always pump up yourself," said Nishikori of the man he has worked with since January this year. "He told me congrats on winning this battle. But he also says it's not done. Stay focused and try to recover these two days, and hopefully have another good one next one."
Nishikori triumphed over third-seeded Wawrinka in four hours 15 minutes, his second marathon clash after needing four hours 19 minutes to get past Milos Raonic in the previous round - a match that started on Monday (US time) and ended at a record-equalling 2.26am on Tuesday.
The Florida-based player admitted it had been a strange few days since his Raonic marathon.
"I slept at 6am. That was a little bit tough because I never had that experience. I had a little bit of jet lag today, but my body is good."
He even said he was happy to keep playing five-set matches, and with his ability to go the distance he has exceeded his best previous performance at a major, a run to the Australian Open quarter-finals in 2012.
His record in five-set matches is now nine wins against two defeats.
"I always love to play five sets. I think I have a good record. I have a lot of confidence to play in the fifth. I get more concentration and my tennis is better in the fourth or fifth sets."