Serb Novak Djokovic ready to face David Ferrer in semi-final at US Open
Defending champion is eager to win his sixth major, keeping pretenders to his throne at bay in the absence of familiar faces - Federer, Nadal
Defending champion Novak Djokovic tackles Spanish bulldozer David Ferrer for a US Open final spot today determined to preserve the grand slam stranglehold of himself, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The world's top three have confidently parcelled out 29 of the last 30 majors between them but, for the first time in more than eight years, a grand slam has reached the last-four stage without either Federer or Nadal still involved.
Federer, the 17-time grand slam title winner, was knocked out in the quarter-finals while Nadal, the holder of 11 majors, never even made it to New York, forced to rest his increasingly troublesome knees at home in Spain.
That leaves 25-year-old Djokovic, battling to win a sixth major, as the sole survivor of the golden generation at Flushing Meadows.
The Serb has certainly looked the part, reaching a sixth successive US Open semi-final - and 10th in a row at all grand slams - without dropping a set.
On Thursday, he demolished 2009 champion Juan Martin Del Potro 6-2, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in the quarter-final to set-up a date against Ferrer, whom he has beaten eight times in 13 meetings with a 7-2 hard-court advantage.
If he gets through, either Andy Murray, four-times a runner-up at the majors, or Tomas Berdych, Federer's conqueror and a major finalist just once, will be waiting in tomorrow's championship match.
"Murray, Berdych, Ferrer, myself, we're all top 10 players. Maybe for some people it was surprising to see Roger lose because he's been so consistent and dominant a player in the last couple of years," said Djokovic.
"He's always expected to get to at least semi-finals of every grand slam. But Berdych deserved to win. He came up with incredible tennis. I have never seen him play that well."
Djokovic said he would not be underestimating Ferrer who had equalled his best grand-slam performance of a run to the semi-finals in New York in 2007.
"David is a fighter. He's one of the biggest competitors we have in the game. People overlook him," said the world number two.
Meanwhile, Murray admits he has nothing but respect for Czech power-hitter Berdych, the man who stunned five-time US Open champion Federer, ahead of their semi-final.
Berdych's stunning victory over the world number one condemned the great Swiss to his worst defeat in New York since 2003.
The sixth seed will be making his semi-final debut today against the British third seed, who was runner-up to Federer in 2008, and will be buoyed by a winning record against the Scot that stands at 4-2.
"Berdych is a great player. Let's show him some respect, too," said Murray after his passage to the last four for the third time was followed almost exclusively about the potential dangers posed by Federer.
That was after Murray had seen off a choking Marin Cilic on Wednesday afternoon, but before Berdych ended Federer's proud record of 21 successive wins in night sessions on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"He's a huge hitter of the ball. Even if you want to dictate points and be aggressive, he can take that away from you because he's such a powerful guy," said Murray. "You need to use good variation and try not and give him the same ball over and over because he likes that."
Berdych has only made one grand-slam final in his career - at Wimbledon in 2010 where he lost to Nadal after beating Federer in the quarter-finals.
He has also won four of his last five matches against Murray who is bidding to become Britain's first major winner since Fred Perry in 1936.
Berdych has endured a roller-coaster season, suffering first-round losses in Wimbledon and the Olympics, a fourth-round exit at the French Open and a run to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
But his game has flourished at Flushing Meadows, where he is second on the aces list with 71, only bettered by the 103 sent down by Canada's Milos Raonic, who was beaten in the fourth round by Murray.
Berdych has also only committed nine double faults in the tournament.
"If my game is well and I'm able to play my game, then I have a dangerous enough game to beat anyone," he said.