There is no roof at the U.S. Open, but there certainly is a ceiling in men's tennis. Spain's David Ferrer, the world's No. 5 player, bumped his head on that upper barrier Sunday, losing to defending champion Novak Djokovic, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, in the storm-delayed semifinal held over from Saturday.
So Monday, Andy Murray will have a go at trying to reach the top rungs of the tennis ladder where, for almost a decade, only Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic have resided. With his four-set semifinal win over Tomas Berdych completed in the howling winds Saturday afternoon, Murray advanced to his fifth major singles final, where he is 0-for-4.
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"Obviously, it's the last thing I really want to achieve in my career," Murray said. "It's very important to me. Winning the Olympics did take a bit of pressure off; I did feel a lot better after that, maybe have less doubts about myself and my place in the game now."
Djokovic, whose five major titles include a decision over Murray in the 2011 Australian Open final, called Murray "one of the complete players in the world right now. We all knew he's definitely a contender to win a Grand Slam title any year in the last five years. He's going to be very motivated. But me, too."
Murray this year has become "more aggressive," Djokovic said, "going for the shots more than he used to. Probably that's the only thing he was missing from his game."
Based on Djokovic's play Sunday, though, Murray will be facing a Michelangelo-like task, trying to do his best work in a most uncomfortable position. Djokovic was razor sharp, acknowledging that he "didn't mind, trust me" when Open officials suspended his match Saturday with Ferrer leading 5-2.
On Saturday, "Ferrer was coping with the conditions much better than I did," Djokovic said. "I was a different player [yesterday]."
Though Ferrer quickly served out the postponed first set, Djokovic went on a five-game run made more impressive by Ferrer's defensive persistence.
Though Djokovic was credited with hitting 34 winners in the match, that number could have been doubled, given Ferrer's ability to keep sending back potential point-ending shots. Rallies extended to 24, 25 and 27 strokes, and the punch-and-counterpunch scenario evolved into trading roundhouse blows.
Ferrer, whose No. 5 world ranking somehow doesn't put him especially close to the top four, wasn't clear when the English word "gap" was presented to him. But, with a front-row seat to the sport's power base, he freely admitted that "the last five years, Novak, Andy, Rafael and Federer are better than the other ones."
"Because they are better," Ferrer, 30, said. "Because they serve better than other guys. The mentality of them is better, no? A lot of things."
Early Saturday, the Serbian Djokovic and the Scot Murray together watched a soccer match between their nations on a computer.
"We tried to be quiet," Djokovic said, "but inside we were cheering."
The soccer game ended 0-0. Sunday's match will not.