Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning the second set against Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals of the U.S. Open on Saturday. (Elsa / Getty Images / September 7, 2013)

NEW YORK -- Top-seeded Novak Djokovic, who had beaten ninth-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka all but two times in 14 matches, seemed on the way to a massive upset in the U.S. Open semifinals Saturday on Arthur Ashe Stadium before coming back from two sets down to beat his 28-year-old Swiss opponent, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Wawrinka had never beaten a No. 1-ranked player in his career.

The 26-year-old Serb is aiming for his seventh Grand Slam title and second of the year after winning the Australian Open. In sunday's final he will play the winner of Saturday's second semifinal between No. 2-seeded Rafael Nadal and eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet.

Djkovic threw his arms into the air after the win, which took 4 hours and 9 minutes.

Though he lost, Wawrinka stayed on court to receive a standing ovation that wouldn't quit. "Sounds like the crowd is proud of me for a great semifinal," he said. "For me, I gave everything. I fight until the end."

After that, Djokovic came out and said, "This match is what we practice for. I want to congratulate my opponent for fighting hard until the end. It was obvious Stan was more aggressive and I was just trying to hang in there and adjust. It wasn't an easy match for either of us. All the credit to him for being so aggressive and playing so well."

Djokovic double-faulted to lose his serve for the third time in the first set and fall behind, 5-2, and Wawrinka held easily for the 6-2 win in 32 minutes. Djokovic, the 2011 champion, did some damage to some racquets in between sets.

Wawrinka had been 0-12 against No. 1-ranked players in his career before this match and was playing in his first-ever Grand Slam-level semifinal. But it was Wawrinka who played as if he expected to win.

If he missed a point he broke a racquet or pummeled a ball or broke another racquet and actually got a point penalty against him for equipment abuse.

Meanwhile, Djokovic played lethargic tennis, as if his wakeup call hadn't arrived on time.

Mostly because of Wawrinka's mistakes, Djokovic won the second-set tiebreaker, 7-6 (4), but Wawrinka became dominant again in the third set, 6-3, whacking winners from everywhere.

It was at the start of the fourth set when Wawrinka first seemed to drop a level. Djokovic broke to start the set. When Djokovic was leading 4-1, Wawrinka fell and left the court to have a bloodied knee and sore groin tended to. He had his upper thigh wrapped, then came back out and held serve to trail 4-2 in the fourth set and then win the first point on Djokovic's serve in the seventh game.

Leading 5-3, Djokovic served out the fourth set with his fifth ace and a decisive fist pump aimed at his box.

In the first game of the fifth Wawrinka rallied from 0-30 down with a pair of big serves. Another big serve left Djokovic to only lunge at a backhand return and send it wide for game point. And a wild backhand gave Wawrinka the hold and a 1-0 lead to start the final set.

Djokovic got a break point in the third game but Wawrinka saved it with a big forehand. Wawrinka saved a second break point in that game with a service winner into Djokovic's body but immediately followed with his seventh double fault to give Djokovic a third break chance. Djokovic gave that one away with a backhand into the net. There was a fourth break point saved by a Wawrinka backhand winner leaving Djokovic standing and staring in amazement.

Into the 14th minute of the game Djokovic had a fifth break point but put a backhand return on a second serve into the net which made him three of 16 on break points over the match.

In the 20th minute of the game, on the 30th point, with Wawrinka jumping up and down and Djokovic urging the crowd to cheer louder, Wawrinka got his hold and a 2-1 lead. In about a minute, Djokovic held at 15 for 2-2.

In the fifth game, Djokovic got two more break points on Wawrinka at 15-40. One was saved when Djokovic's return went into the net. The second was lost with a wide forehand to put the score back at deuce. But a third break point came Djokovic's way. This time Wawrinka gave it to the Serb, sending a backhand wide. Djokovic led, 3-2, and would serve after the changeover.

Djokovic consolidated the break, holding at 30 even when he only got one first serve in, and took a 4-2 lead. He held his advantage, and his serve, to go ahead, 5-3, after winning a challenge on what was just barely an ace that had been called out. 

When he had his chance to serve the four-hour-plus match out, Djokovic won the first rally when a Wawrinka backhand went long for 15-0; he won the second with a backhand volley for a 30-0 lead; won the next with a huge forehand that Wawrinka could only plop into the net for a 40-0 lead; took a little break by putting a backhand into the net for 40-15; and finished with an ace.

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