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Title pretenders take aim at the last king standing

Defending champion Novak Djokovic tackles Spanish bulldozer David Ferrer for a US Open final spot on Saturday, determined to preserve the Grand Slam stranglehold of himself, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Match box

sports Updated: Sep 08, 2012 02:08 IST

Defending champion Novak Djokovic tackles Spanish bulldozer David Ferrer for a US Open final spot on Saturday, determined to preserve the Grand Slam stranglehold of himself, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The world's top three have confidently parcelled out 29 of the last 30 majors between them but, for the first time in more than eight years, a Grand Slam has reached the last-four stage without either Federer or Nadal still involved.

Federer, the 17-time Grand Slam title winner, was knocked out in the quarter-finals while Nadal, the holder of 11 majors, never even made it to New York, forced to rest his http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/9/08_09_12-metro21c.jpgincreasingly troublesome knees at home in Spain. That leaves 25-year-old Djokovic, battling to win a sixth major, as the sole survivor of the golden generation at Flushing Meadows.

The Serb has certainly looked the part, reaching a sixth successive US Open semi-final -- and 10th in a row at all Grand Slams -- without dropping a set.

On Thursday he demolished 2009 champion Juan Martin Del Potro 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the quarter-final to set-up a date against Ferrer, whom he has beaten eight times in 13 meetings with a 7-2 hardcourt advantage.

If he gets through, either Andy Murray, four-times a runner-up at the majors, or Tomas Berdych, Federer's conqueror and a major finalist just once, will be waiting in the Sunday's championship match.

Meanwhile, Murray admits he has nothing but respect for Czech power-hitter Berdych, the man who stunned five-time US Open champion Federer, ahead of their semi-final.

Berdych's stunning victory over the world No 1 condemned the great Swiss to his worst defeat in New York since 2003. The sixth seed will be making his semi-final debut on Saturday against the Brit, who was runner-up to Federer in 2008, and will be buoyed by a winning record against the Scot that stands at 4-2.

"Berdych is a great player. Let's show him some respect, too," said Murray after his passage to the last four for the third time.

“He's a huge hitter of the ball. Even if you want to dictate points and be aggressive, he can take that away from you because he's such a powerful guy,” said Murray.