New York: Rafael Nadal cruised into the US Open final with a 21-match hardcourt unbeaten streak on Saturday while world number one Novak Djokovic had to withstand a five-set, limit-testing struggle to join him.
Second-ranked Spaniard Nadal, whose 12 Grand Slam titles include the 2010 US Open, routed French eighth seed Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), 6-2, to reach his third final in four years. Nadal missed the 2012 event with knee injuries.
“Just amazing,” Nadal said.
“After what happened last year, to have the chance to play in the final on Monday is a dream for me. It has been two amazing weeks for me.”
Serbian six-time major winner Djokovic outlasted Swiss ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 after four hours and nine minutes to reach his fourth US Open final in a row, fifth overall, and 12th Slam final.
Nadal leads Djokovic 21-15 in their personal rivalry, which will move past John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl as the most-played match-up in the Open era.
Nadal won their most recent meetings in a five-set French Open semi-final and last month’s Montreal semi-finals and has split two US Open finals with him, winning in 2010 to complete a career Grand Slam but losing a year later to give Djokovic his first trophy on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts.
“Novak is an amazing competitor,” Nadal said.
Nadal dropped serve for the first time in the fourth game of the second set of his semi-final, ending his streak of 73 held service games at the US Open and a run of 88 in total stretching to the ATP Cincinnati Masters semi-finals.
But it was the only break Nadal surrendered, and when he overwhelmed the Frenchman in the tie-breaker, it was clear he was in total command.
He finished after two hours and 21 minutes.
Nadal, who has won nine titles since ending a seven-month layoff to rest his knees, denied Gasquet’s bid to become the first Frenchman in a US Open final since Cedric Pioline in 1993. It was his first Slam last-four since Wimbledon in 2007.
For his part, Djokovic admitted that he was not even the best player on the court for much of his match, but said he was able to raise his game when it mattered most to subdue stubborn Wawrinka, in his first Grand Slam semi-final.