(September 9, 2016) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – In what was characterized by most as a “bizarre” match, Novak Djokovic moved into his seventh US Open final, beating 10th seed Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 on Friday.
In the first set, Djokovic dashed out to a 5-0 lead. The world No. 1 had three set points serving at 5-1, Monfils won the next two games but Djokovic closed the set at 6-3.
ESPN commentator and tennis Hall of Famer John McEnroe criticized Monfils’ “lack of effort” on the air.
Monfils was asked about this in his news conference:
“I like John. I think he’s a great person. I mean, I have nothing personal to him, so I’m very sad to heard that. I’m very sad to learn that such a legend criticize me, because at the end what I can say to John is, you know, John, I want to be the best. It’s tough, you know. And I try my best.
“I’m sorry if you think I’m unprofessional, but I guess I’m working, I’m learning, you know. I think I’m failing, for sure, a lot, but I try to stand up. You know, it’s tough, because when he call me unprofessional he calls my coach unprofessional, calls my physio unprofessional, calls my physic — all my team, actually, unprofessional. Is a bit tough, you know.
“And he knows what it is. I’m more than happy to talk with him, you know. For sure, you know, it’s easy to punish me because I not win anything, you know. Such an easy thing. I do different stuff. I’m happy. I’m always with a smile.
“I make it easy. But I think John knows that if I want to be in the semifinal of the slam, anything he can say, if I not play top seed or whatever, you know, I won couple matches and I have been trained hard, you know.
“So I just very sorry bring that, and tell to John that I’m more than happy to talk with him. You know, is someone that I always care about what he is saying, but I’m just sad that he criticize me that easy.”
Djokovic was also asked about Monfils’ effort.
“I thought at times that he was, you know, maybe behaving a little bit –you know, for some terms and judgments unacceptable — but, again, I guess that was part of his tactics,” he said. “If he said that you have to believe him, I guess.
“He was 5-Love down with his game and he mixed it up. It seemed like it was a bit of a lack of effort, but then he started playing great. He started playing aggressive. He took chances. He came to the net.
“In the end of the day, I thought it was a good match. We played a four-set match. I think the crowd enjoyed it in the end.”
Monfils came back to life in the third set, rallying from 0-2 in the third set to win the set 6-3.
Djokovic fully controlled the fourth set breaking Monfils three times to complete the victory.
Well, it was a strange match,” said Djokovic “as it always is, I guess, when you play Gael, who is very unpredictable player.”
Monfils was also questioned by media about his “competing.”
“Because first question is like you’re not competing. F*ck, yes, I’m competing, you know. Even I’m like at my best actually. The guy is too good. I just have to change, you know, Monfils explained.
“As I always say, the change is guts, you know. It’s like people told me, Ah… No, I think I’m gutsy to try that, you know, against the world No. 1 of the world, you know. 5-0, okay, I show you that I play none academic way.
“And then I won’t win a match like that, but I can win maybe 15 minutes, maybe two more games, one more games. I can push him a little bit to defend also myself, more confidence, and put him out his balance.”
After all of that, Djokovic will play Sunday for his third Grand Slam championship of the season, after those at the Australian Open in January, and the French Open in June — when the theatrics were at a relative minimum by Friday’s standards.
On Sunday, Djokovic will play for his third US Open title against Stan Wawrinka.
The two-time major winner beat 2014 US Open finalist Kei Nishikori 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to advance to his first final in Flushing Meadows. It will be a rematch of the 2015 French Open final, when the Swiss up set the Serb.
“I’m really excited,” Wawrinka said. “Really happy to make the final. Something amazing for me.
“To play Novak, the No. 1 player, it’s always really challenging. But we had some many big memories together, especially in Grand Slams, so it’s going to be an excited match.”
“Was some amazing match, for sure,”said the world No. 3 about his French Open win. “The secret is simple: I have to play my best tennis, my best game. He’s the No. 1 player, amazing fighter, amazing player, but I have enough confidence in myself that when I play my best level I can beat him.
“Hopefully I can bring that Sunday. But it’s the biggest challenge. When you play Novak, the No. 1 player in the final of Grand Slam, it’s the biggest challenge you can have.”
Wawrinka id 10 for 10 in his last 10 finals, but Djokovic is 20-4 against the Swiss.