Djokovic knows the drill

NEW YORK — Here he is again, Novak Djokovic, for the fourth straight year advancing to the semifinals of the U.S. Open. The 23-year-old from Serbia got to the finals in 2007 and the semifinals the last two years.

Djokovic, seeded third, had no trouble Wednesday with 17th-seeded Gael Monfils, a gifted shot-maker who chose to ignore the contentious conditions with winds that gusted to 20 mph at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

While Monfils was trying never-before-seen twisting, leaping, around-his-leg shots that went nowhere they were supposed to go, Djokovic was strategically timing his advances to the net, keeping his serve under control and beating Monfils 7-6 (2), 6-1, 6-2.

It always has been Djokovic's bad luck to come up against Roger Federer, and so his Open quest has been stopped by Federer each of the last three years.

And this year it might happen again. Djokovic will play the winner of Wednesday's quarterfinal between second-seeded Federer and fifth-seeded Robin Soderling.

The third woman to advance to Friday's semifinals also had a pretty easy time of it because she also handled the windy conditions the best.

Seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva, a Wimbledon finalist this year but a first-timer in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, beat 31st-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-3, 7-5.

In Friday's semifinal, Zvonareva will face top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, who topped unseeded Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 7-5 in Wednesday's night match.

"The weather was definitely not for the good tennis out there," Zvonareva said. "But no matter what, the match had to be played. The most important thing was to find the right balance between being patient and being aggressive. I think I did it well."

Djokovic agreed. "The conditions were maybe as difficult as we saw so far in the tournament," he said. "We didn't have wind in only one direction. We had it all over. As you probably saw, the serve wasn't going over 110, 105 mph, both players. It was more trying to use the wind."

Thursday's featured match: Top-seeded Rafael Nadal vs. eighth-seeded Fernando Verdasco.

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