NEW YORK (Reuters) - An emotional and exhausted Novak Djokovic said he had closed his eyes and hoped for the best before rescuing two match points in his epic U.S. Open semi-final win over Roger Federer on Saturday.
The Serbian number three seed looked set to be on the receiving end of a fourth consecutive U.S. Open defeat at the hands of the most successful player in grand slam history.
He turned around the match in dramatic fashion, however, for a 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 7-5 victory to set up a showdown with world number one Rafa Nadal at Flushing Meadows on Sunday.
“I kind of closed my eyes on the forehands in the match points and just went for the shots and I got lucky,” the 23-year-old told reporters.
Djokovic went through a rollercoaster of emotions against Federer in front of a frenzied crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
After the 16-times grand slam went 6-5 up in the third set, Djokovic hit himself on the head three times with his racket and, after saving the two match points, bashed it against his chest in celebration.
He also appeared to momentarily lose his temper with the crowd when he conceded the third set following a poor service game.
“You know there are moments when they support one guy and then support the other so there were ups and downs,” he said.
“You feel stress when you’re 5-6 down and serving, and they wanted Roger to win that set.”
The three-hour, 44-minute match left Djokovic with less than 24 hours to get himself ready for the third grand slam final of his career after his 2007 defeat in New York and 2008 triumph in Australia.
“Popcorn, watching TV, relaxing” would be his preparations for his 22nd career meeting with the Spaniard, Djokovic said, before admitting he was praying the rain forecast for New York on Sunday would fall hard and heavy.
“I don’t know the rituals how to invite the rain but ... an extra day would be great actually,” he added.
Djokovic conceded that a majority of neutrals in New York had been hoping for a first U.S. Open final meeting between Federer and Nadal.
“I‘m sorry for all the ones who wanted to see Roger and Rafa in the final,” Djokovic said. “But for me it’s one of those matches that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Djokovic will meet Nadal in a grand slam final for the first time on Sunday and said he was confident but realistic.
“It’s true that a hard court gives me my best chance against Rafa but he’s still the number one of the world.”
Editing by Nick Mulvenney