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Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer coast into final of U.S. Open

Roger Federer pumps his fist after defeating Stan

Roger Federer pumps his fist after defeating Stan Wawrinka in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-1, in the men's semifinals of the U.S. Open in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Compare and contrast. One U.S. Open top seed, women's defending champ Serena Williams, couldn't break the (Roberta) Vinci Code and was shockingly upset in Friday's semifinals. Hours later, the other No. 1, men's title favorite Novak Djokovic, made his presence in the championship final feel like the tournament's real foregone conclusion with a 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 rout of 2014 Open winner Marin Cilic.

Same thing in the other semis: Women's No. 2 Simona Halep was rocked by Vinci's Italian countrywoman, Flavia Pennetta. Men's No. 2 Roger Federer, the classy act you've known for all these years, dispensed with fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka, whose gritty play belies the rumpled look of a man who just got out of bed. The score was 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

"First of all," Djokovic said, "you have to understand that this is sport. As much as Serena has achieved in her life, these kind of upsets still can happen. I mean, it really happens."

Djokovic should know, having been ambushed by Japan's Kei Nishikori in last year's semifinals despite his No. 1 seed. Federer was stunned by Cilic in the 2014 semifinals.

"It's not easy to swallow," Djokovic said of being on the short end of such shocks. "But sometimes, when another player has a better day than you, you have to congratulate and move on."

And think of the bromide: "Non contare I tuoi polli." (Vinci and Pannetta would understand; that's Italian for "don't count your chickens.")

Not that defending champion Cilic could assume much against nine-time major-tournament champ Djokovic, who is 14-0 against him. It's just that the likelihood of Djokovic winning the most lopsided men's semifinal in the tournament in the Open Era, which verged on embarrassing, was small.

Postmatch, Cilic revealed that he sprained an ankle two matches earlier and would have defaulted were it not a Grand Slam event.

Whatever. Djokovic had him surrounded and literally outnumbered: 83 Djokovic winners to 39 for Cilic. A mere 85 minutes for Djokovic to turn Cilic into the court jester, minus the three-point hat with jingle bells.

There was one point in the seventh game of the third set when Cilic -- literally and figuratively a broken man by then -- dropped a dastardly shot barely over the net. But Djokovic, with 10 lightning steps from baseline to net, caught it and flicked an impossibly angled winner cross-court.

Federer's takedown of Wawrinka was not nearly as complete. But from the moment he forced a netted Wawrinka backhand in the third game with his new charging short-hop return of a second serve, Federer began to tighten the noose of pressure.

That shot has been branded SABR -- Surprise Attack By Roger -- but might better be labeled Federer's Charge, a breakneck rush into the teeth of a serve. It led to Federer's first of five service breaks; Wawrinka, with none in 13 games receiving serve, could never get traction.

Federer was asked to contrast and compare. He has won the Open five times but is back in the final for the first time since 2009. What might be the burden of expectation for Serena Williams, upset just short of a fifth Open title?

"I mean, it's a good burden," Federer said. "I'd rather be in that position than on a 10-match losing streak. We're talking about good pressure. She's done unbelievably well. Just not meant to be, maybe."

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