Novak Djokovic is headed back to the U.S. Open final after defeating David… (Kathy Willens / Associated…)
NEW YORK — Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have split their last four meetings. Two of them were big-occasion events.
Djokovic outlasted Murray in an enthralling five-set Australian Open semifinal. In an Olympic semifinal at Wimbledon, Murray, riding home-nation crowd cheers and playing clever all-court tennis, beat Djokovic in two close sets.
In Australia, Djokovic went on to win his fifth major title. At the Olympics, Murray won the gold medal.
Djokovic, seeded second and the defending champion, will play the third-seeded Murray on Monday at 1 p.m. PDT in another big-occasion event, the weather-delayed U.S. Open men's final.
This is the fifth year in a row the men's final has been pushed back to Monday and Djokovic will have been in the last three.
The 25-year-old from Serbia finished off his semifinal win Sunday. Djokovic had fallen behind fourth-seeded David Ferrer on Saturday before bad weather stopped the match, but the Serb played picture-perfect tennis Sunday on a picture-perfect day, winning 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
It was Djokovic's 27th consecutive hard-court win at major tournaments, but he said he didn't think he was the man to beat in Monday's final.
"I don't think there's any clear favorite," Djokovic said. "He's looking for his first Grand Slam title. I'm sure he's going to be very motivated. Hopefully, we can both come up with our best tennis for this crowd."
Djokovic, who has a career 8-6 advantage over Murray, said most of his matches against the Scotsman have been close.
"Only small margins decide the winner," Djokovic said. "We have similar games."
Djokovic said the Australian Open match, on a hard court, was tough mentally and physically. "There were a lot of long rallies and you couldn't really say who was going to win up to the last point," he said.
At the Olympics, on grass, Djokovic said, "different surface and different tactics apply. So we'll see. Monday, I guess, there is no clear favorite."
Murray, 0-4 in Grand Slam tournament finals, is not bashful about saying he wants very much to win a major.
"It's the last thing that I really want to achieve in my career," Murray said. "It's obviously very important for me. Winning the Olympics does take a bit of the pressure off. I feel a lot better after that. Maybe I have fewer doubts about myself and my place in the game just now. . . .
"It wouldn't be easy to lose another Slam final," he said. "I hope this one is a different story."
Despite losing to Djokovic at Melbourne, Murray took positives from the match.
"I handled a big match well," said Murray, who beat Tomas Berdych in his semifinal Saturday. "It just came down to a couple of points. And I know how much the Olympics meant to all the players, so winning against Novak in the semifinals was a big win for me."
Djokovic didn't seem to expend a lot of energy Sunday against Ferrer. Trailing 5-2 when play was halted Saturday, he might as well have conceded the first game to give Ferrer the first setSunday.
Then Djokovic began playing the tennis that had gotten him to the semifinals. He hit the ball cleanly and defended well. In about an hour and a half, Djokovic won the second and third sets, . holding serve at love in five of his last six service games in those sets.
Djokovic began the fourth set by breaking the Spaniard at love and hurried to the finish line.