- Associated Press - Saturday, September 10, 2011

NEW YORK — Facing two match points against a beloved player whose name is already in the history books, Novak Djokovic clenched his jaw and flashed an ever-so-slight glimpse of a smile.

Might as well go down swinging, right?

So, he went for it.

He turned violently on a 108 mph serve from Roger Federer for a cross-court winner that barely nicked the line. The fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium, ready to explode for a Federer victory, instead found themselves taking a cue from Djokovic — who raised his hands, asking for a little love.

About 10 minutes later, those same fans were dancing with Djoko as he boogied at center court to celebrate an epic U.S. Open semifinal win — one in which he dug out of a two-set hole, then saved two match points against Federer for the second straight year.

Top-seeded Djokovic won 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 Saturday to improve to 63-2 on the year. This was only his second career comeback from two sets down. Next, he’ll face Andy Murray or defending champion Rafael Nadal, who played in the second semifinal, as Djokovic tries to become only the fifth man to win three Grand Slam titles in a year since the start of the Open era.

“It was definitely the biggest win of this year, one of the biggest wins of the career under the circumstances,” Djokovic said. “Roger was in control, playing better. I switched gears and played much better over three sets.”

After the fourth set, the prospect that third-seeded Federer would even have a match point seemed bleak.

Djokovic, who spent the first two sets shaking his head, commiserating with the folks in his players box, even folding his hands in mock prayer, turned things around suddenly and unexpectedly.

He got 16 of 20 of his first serves in during the fourth set and ripped off the first 15 service points. But Federer won the next three of those service points, all with the set on the line, to show an inkling of resistance — and give a preview of a fifth set that had as many momentum shifts as the match.

The real action began with Djokovic serving at 3-4 and stringing together an uncharacteristically bad game, getting broken at love on two mishit forehands, a framer of Federer’s that set up a winner and a double fault after a second serve that missed the line by about a foot.

After missing a backhand to open his service game at 5-3, Federer hit three straight serves Djokovic couldn’t get back. He had two match points, same way he did last year in the semifinals, and the fans were squarely on his side, as he stood oh-so-close to making his 24th Grand Slam final and moving a win away to adding to his record 16 Grand Slam titles.

But Djokovic isn’t putting together one of the greatest seasons in tennis history for nothing.

He knows all about risk-reward shots and figured being down two match points was as good a time as any to try it. Federer spun a serve wide to Djokovic’s forehand side and the Serb took the all-or-nothing route.

“If it comes in, it comes in,” he said. “It’s a risk. Last year, I was in a very similar situation. He was two match points up. I was hitting a forehand as hard as I can. You’re gambling. If it’s out, you lose. If it’s in, maybe you have a chance. I got lucky today.”

Federer’s next serve hit the back of the service line and jammed Djokovic, but somehow he got it back. Federer moved in and cranked a forehand, but it ticked the net and went out. Federer sprayed a forehand wide at deuce and suddenly, a crowd gearing for a Federer win was shouting “No-vak, No-vak, No-vak!”

They know a winner when they see one.

Counting the two match points he saved, Djokovic won 17 of the final 21 points.

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