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US Open: Cilic battles past Tsonga to set up Djokovic showdown

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While all the talk around town was on Serena vs Venus at Flushing Meadows on Tuesday, the men's draw provided plenty of entertainment as world no.1 Novak Djokovic and defending champion Marin Cilic produced some impressive tennis to book their spots opposite each other in the US Open semi-finals.

Cilic, a surprise winner here last year, has struggled for form most of this season, going through the typical honeymoon period most first time Grand Slam winners tend to enjoy. A return to New York though saw him stop on court last week with a renewed confidence and a desire to defend his title. It also meant that the Croatian superstar has walked around all week with a target on his back and plenty hoping to be the player to take him down.

 

In the quarter-finals yesterday he ran into a stubborn Frenchman in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who despite finding himself two sets to love down, refused to quit.

A break in either set saw Cilic lead 6-4, 6-4 having spent just over an hour on court. Little was he to know they would play long into the night. Tsonga found the rhythm on his serve in the third set, and finally was able to find an answer to Cilic's to take the third set 6-3.

The fourth provided immense drama as the duo slugged it out for over an hour and Tsonga saved three match points en route to clinching it in a tiebreak 7-3.

One would have usually expected Cilic to break by now, but the Croat was in no mood to surrender his crown. The aces started pouring off his racquet and the winner count grew as he landed that crucial break to seal an incredible 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4 win after more than four hours on court.

Fortunately for Cilic, he has a two day breather before he faces Djokovic on Friday. The Serb was in outstanding form as he thumped Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in a near error free opening set to take it 6-1. Lopez started painting the lines and bounced straight back to take the second 6-3.

Djokovic though was undetered and a crucial break in Lopez's first service game of the third set allowed Djokovic to take it 6-3.

The fourth set made its way into a tiebreak with Lopez having done well to hold his own against the world no.1, but Djokovic was imperious in the breaker, taking it 7-2 to book his place in the semi-finals.

Djokovic will bring an incredible 13-0 record against Cilic into their encounter on Friday, and Cilic will need to do what he has never done before if he hopes to keep his title defence alive at the US Open.