US Open 2015 Semis: Djokovic vs Cilic, Federer vs Wawrinka preview

  • Manoj Bhagavatula, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 13, 2015 21:42 IST
Novak Djokovic of Serbia shakes hands with Feliciano Lopez of Spain after defeating him during their Men's Singles Quarterfinals match on Day Nine of the 2015 US Open (AFP Photo)

World number one Novak Djokovic of Serbia will face defending champion Marin Cilic of Croatia in the semi-finals of the US Open on Friday, while Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka will contest the all-Swiss second semifinal.

Here's a preview of the action:

Roger Federer vs Stan Wawrinka

En route to his French Open title, Wawrinka recorded his first victory over Federer at a major. He also defeated Federer in the final of last year's Monte Carlo Rolex Masters.

Those are Wawrinka's two most memorable victories in a rivalry dominated 16-3 by the more famous Swiss, including a 4-1 record at the Grand Slams. But since winning a major, Wawrinka's more consistent belief in his game has made this a more competitive rivalry than the numbers might suggest.

Roger Federer of Switzerland shakes hands with Richard Gasquet of France after defeating him during their Men's Singles Quarterfinals match on Day Ten of the 2015 US Open. The Swiss maestro will face his fellow countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in the semi-finals (AFP Photo)

There's a healthy dose of tension to go around, too. In the semi-finals of last year's World Tour Finals, at The O2 in London, the gold medal men's doubles winners at the 2008 Beijing Olympics had a dust-up in the tunnel, reportedly due to Federer's wife, Mirka, calling Wawrinka a crybaby during the course of his three-set defeat. Despite the incident, the pair teamed up a week later to win Switzerland's first Davis Cup title.

Federer has been in fine form this season, recording his 1,000th career win, a 10th Wimbledon final and titles in Dubai and Halle. At Cincinnati, he debuted an experimental second-serve return, charging up to the service line to chip the return and putting pressure on the server's passing ability. So effective was the tactic that it brought the 17-time Grand Slam champion a record seventh Cincinnati title at the expense of Djokovic. The return even spawned an acronym: Sneak Attack By Roger (SABR).

Federer has yet to drop a set thus far and his serve has been working immaculately, helping him make quick progress through the draw. The Swiss stands a good chance of making his first final in New York since 2009.

Wawrinka would like to have some say in the matter, however. The Swiss' summer hard-court season made news more for Nick Kyrgios' infamous sledge towards him than it did for his results. Wawrinka vowed not to let the incident affect his focus on winning majors, and making his first US Open final would be an emphatic way for the world number five to make his point.

Although Federer dismissed the single-handed backhand of Richard Gasquet all too easily in the quarter-finals, this all-Swiss one handed-backhand affair promises to be a far closer encounter.

Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland returns the ball to Kevin Anderson of South Africa during their 2015 US Open Men's singles quarterfinals match. Wawrinka won 6-4, 6-4, 6-0, setting up an all-Swiss semi-final against Roger Federer (AFP Photo)

Novak Djokovic vs Marin Cilic

The head-to-head between Djokovic and Cilic is an utterly lopsided 13-0 in favour of the Serb, who has handed Cilic defeat four times at the majors, most recently at this year's Wimbledon Championships in a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 dismantling in the quarter-finals.

The Croat has won just five of the 35 sets the two have contested, including three in tiebreakers. But Cilic will perhaps take heart in knowing that four of those five sets have come in Grand Slam contests. Claiming three sets off Djokovic in a single match is a whole different task, however.

After his third Wimbledon title, Djokovic's summer on the US hard-courts has not been as productive as he would have liked. His two-year-long, eight-match winning streak over Andy Murray came to an end in the final of the Rogers Masters in Montreal and he then fell prey to Federer's SABR tactic in the final of the Cincinnati Masters, the sole Masters tournament the Serb has yet to win.

Djokovic will look to make amends for his surprising straight-sets loss to Kei Nishikori in the semis last year by making his sixth final in New York. With the exception of one set apiece dropped in his matches against Spaniards Roberto Bautista Agut and Feliciano Lopez, the Serb has been his usual, efficient self.

Cilic has hardly been treated like a defending champion at this year's Open. There has been little buzz surrounding his bid for a second Championship trophy, and in some ways, unsurprisingly so. His 2014 season included three ATP 250 titles and the US Open win was marked included straight-sets victories over Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer, and Nishikori. After missing the first two months of this season with a shoulder injury, Cilic is yet to reach a final this year.

Flying under the radar, the Croat is just two wins away from the title. He may have dropped five sets, but his hard-fought, five-set victories over Mikhail Kukushkin and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will have strengthened his belief that he can consistently be a threat at the majors.

The closest Cilic came to beating Djokovic was in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon last year, when he led by two sets to one before losing the next two. As reigning champion and with his form peaking at seemingly the right time, Friday will be the Croat's best chance to register his first victory over the Serb.

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