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Djokovic finds unfamiliar company at US Open
The opening semifinal pits third-seeded Murray, who has made four Grand Slam finals but is still in search of his first win, and sixth-seeded Berdych, who lost in the first round at both Wimbledon and the Olympics, which gave him more opportunity to focus on preparing for the hard-court season.
One thing both players have in common: Wins over Federer this summer. Murray got his in the gold-medal match at the Olympics, while Berdych advanced to the semifinals with a four-set win over the No. 1 seed on Wednesday.
“I think I’m a different player than the years before,” Berdych said. “I would say I’m more experienced than that time.”
Berdych has a 4-2 lifetime record against Murray, of Britain, who carries his entire nation’s hopes with him every time he enters a major. Their only meeting at a Grand Slam came in 2010, when Berdych won in straight sets in the fourth round of the French Open. They have split their four matches on hard courts.
“He’s a huge, huge hitter of the ball,” Murray said of his next opponent. “Even if you want to dictate points and be aggressive, he can take that away from you because he’s such a powerful guy. You need to be smart against him. You need to use good variation and try not to give him the same ball over and over, because he likes that.”
While Murray is still looking for his breakthrough, Djokovic is trying to add the U.S. Open to his Australian Open title to start the year, which would give him as good a claim as anyone as the best player in 2012.
He entered the French Open looking to become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four Grand Slam tournaments in a row. Djokovic fell to Nadal in the final, then lost to Federer in the semifinals at Wimbledon and followed that with a disappointing fourth-place finish at the Olympics. After spending 12 months ranked first, he fell to No. 2 in July.
Hardly anything to be ashamed about, but since Djokovic had gone 70-6 in 2011, including 10 tournament titles and a stretch of 43 wins in a row at one point, even a small letup looked like a step down.
Not to him, though.
“I didn’t expect myself to be unbeatable for six months, once again,” he said before the start of the tournament. “It’s very hard to repeat a year like 2011. But so far, I think I’ve had a very good 2012.”
With a chance it could still get better.
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