New York: World number one Novak Djokovic and number two Rafa Nadal set up a mouthwatering men`s singles final at the US Open with victories in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows on Saturday.
Monday`s U.S. Open championship showdown will be the third in four years for Djokovic and Nadal at the US National Tennis Center after they advanced in contrasting fashion.
The top-seeded Serb booked his berth first by overtaking gutsy ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in a heart-pounding 2-6, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 four-hour victory over battling Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss ninth seed.
Nadal conserved his energy, dismissing eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-2 to improve his career record to 11-0 against the Frenchman and his 2013 hard court record to 21-0.
The Spaniard, winner of 12 grand slam titles, won his only US Open crown in 2010 against Djokovic, who claimed his Flushing Meadows title the following year against Nadal. Last year Djokovic was runner-up to Briton Andy Murray.
"Last year I didn`t have the chance to play on this court," said Nadal, who was sidelined seven months due to a knee injury.”
"To have the chance to play in the final Monday is just a dream for me. It has been two amazing weeks for me."
Djokovic and Nadal are the most familiar of rivals and will be playing against each other for a tour record 37th time. Nadal leads their series 21-15.
"Novak is an amazing competitor," said the reigning French Open champion. "His results say he is probably one of the best players I have ever seen. He`s a great champion and will be a tough final for me, but I hope to be ready for that."
While Nadal took apart Gasquet in his semi-final, Djokovic got off to a slow start against an inspired Wawrinka and relied on his stamina to wear down the Swiss.
The tumultuous match, which included a warning for courtside coaching from Djokovic`s box, the mangling of a racket by a frustrated Wawrinka and a medical timeout for the Swiss for a strained thigh muscle, reached a crescendo in the fifth set.
With Wawrinka serving at 1-1, the combatants locked into a marathon duel that lasted 21 minutes, featuring brilliant rallies and great shot-making with the Swiss fighting off five break points during 12 deuces before winning on the 30th point with a service winner.
The marathon game earned the players several ovations in stirring tributes to their desire and skill.
"These matches is what we live for, what we practice for," Djokovic said after reaching his fourth successive US Open final.
"All the credit to (Wawrinka) for being so aggressive and playing so well. I`m just fortunate to play my best tennis when I needed to."
Djokovic said he had to regroup after that epic game in the fifth set.
"Twenty-one minutes. Wow," said the Serb. "I was thinking whoever wins this game is going to win the match. I told myself I was going to have to fight again."
The Herculean effort seemed to sap the last bit of energy from Wawrinka, who had earlier left the court for treatment of a thigh strain during the changeover at 1-4 of the fourth set.
Djokovic held serve, then broke Wawrinka in the next game for a 3-2 lead and served out to win the match.
The battle was reminiscent of another classic, five-set struggle between the two in the round of 16 at this year`s Australian Open, won 12-10 in the fifth set by Djokovic.
This difficult defeat came in the Swiss player`s first appearance in a grand slam semi-final.
"It was a great tournament for me," Wawrinka said. "Tough match, tough loss. I gave everything. I fought until the end. With this crowd, it was an amazing experience."
Sunday, world number one Serena Williams will take on number two Victoria Azarenka for the women`s singles title in a rematch of last year`s championship tilt in Flushing Meadows.
The women`s final will follow a men`s doubles final between the second-seeded team of Alexander Peya of Austria and Brazilian Bruno Soares and fourth seeds Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic and India`s Leander Paes.
The junior boys and girls finals will also be staged on Sunday with boys` fourth seed Borna Coric of Croatia going against Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, and second-seeded Ana Konjuh of Croatia facing American wild card Tornado Alicia Black in the girls` title match.