Djokovic into fourth straight U.S. Open semi

Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a return to Gael Monfils of France during the US Open tennis tournament in New York, September 8, 2010. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Serbia’s Novak Djokovic defied high, swirling winds to reach the semi-finals of the U.S. Open for the fourth consecutive year with a convincing 7-6 6-1 6-2 victory over Gael Monfils on Wednesday.

There were high expectations for the a match that featured two of the most watchable players in the men’s draw, and while both showcased glimpses of their crowd-pleasing shotmaking, the windy conditions wreaked havoc on their play.

Routine ball tosses were blown off course, the pair’s towels were at times strewn across the side of the court and serves were slowed to 110 mph as the gusts increased in the latter stages of the match.

“These are the worst conditions so far in this tournament,” Djokovic said in a courtside interview after the match. “But I was really focused when I needed to be and I’m just so happy to come through in straight sets.”

France’s Monfils, cheered on by countryman and New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry, jumped ahead 4-2 in the opening set after breaking the number three seed’s serve.

But Djokovic, who had never lost to his French opponent in four previous meetings, broke back two games later and showed beautiful variation to dominate the subsequent tiebreak 7-2.

As the wind was increasingly whipped up inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, both players struggled to hold serve.

Djokovic, cheered on by a very vocal group of Serbian fans, did well to concede just one break while Monfils failed to hold a single service game in the second set, which was far tighter than the 6-1 score suggested.

After that, Djokovic marked himself as a serious contender for Sunday’s title when he wrapped up the final set in dominant fashion in 37 minutes to set up a last-four encounter with the winner of the Roger Federer and Robin Soderling match later on Wednesday.

Editing by Frank Pingue