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Djokovic, meanwhile, has made it this far for the fourth U.S. Open in a row, and he keeps running into 16-time Grand Slam champion Federer. Djokovic lost to him in the final in 2007, and in the semifinals in 2008 and 2009, when Federer hit his YouTube-sensation, back-to-the-net, between-the-legs passing shot winner.

“He’s obviously waiting for a breakthrough where he can win this title,” Federer observed. “But for the last three or four years, he’s gone through me, and he hasn’t been able to get it done.”

Federer, who is 10-5 against Djokovic overall, will be playing in his seventh consecutive U.S. Open semifinal. He won the other six, and is 45-1 in New York since the start of the 2004 tournament. The only loss in that span came against del Potro in the 2009 title match.

The U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam tournament that schedules the men’s semifinals for Saturday instead of Friday, eliminating a day of rest before the final. So while everyone else might be thinking ahead to the possibility of Nadal vs. Federer on Sunday, the players themselves are not.

“If you’re going to play an epic, maybe, on Saturday, that’s going to really influence your chances on (the) final day. That’s what’s rough about this format here at the Open,” Federer said. “Nothing is safe until you’re through, until you’re in the final.”