NEW YORK: “Super Saturday” is history at the US Open but rain has created a “Fantastic Friday” at Arthur Ashe Stadium with Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in starring roles.
Showers postponed Thursday’s scheduled women’s semifinals to Friday (Saturday in Manila), US Tennis Association officials moving them ahead of the men’s semifinals to create a day of high drama on the biggest stage in tennis as Williams chases tennis history, Federer seeks his first Slam title since 2012 and Djokovic seeks his third Slam of 2015.
It comes in the first year since organizers scrapped the old “Super Saturday” schedule of men’s semifinals and women’s final in one day in favor of a regular Grand Slam format, giving players a day off before their semifinals and finals, weather permitting.
But this year, the last year the US Open will be played without a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, fates have tossed together four matches in a rare Friday spectacle.
Top-ranked defending champion Williams will play Italy’s 43-ranked Roberta Vinci in the second women’s semi-final after Romania’s second-ranked Simona Halep faces Italian 26th seed Flavia Pennetta.
Williams, already holding all four major titles, is chasing the first calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988 and trying to match Graf’s Open Era career record of 22 Slam singles titles, two shy of Margaret Court’s all-time record.
The 33-year-old American will try to match Chris Evert’s Open Era record by capturing her fourth consecutive US Open singles title and set an Open Era record with her seventh career US Open title.
Serbian world number one Novak Djokovic, the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion, follows against defending US Open champion Marin Cilic for a berth in Sunday’s men’s final.
Then comes the Broadway big finish for the other final berth when Swiss fifth seed Stan Wawrinka, the reigning French Open champion, meets 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer, trying to become, at 34, the oldest US Open men’s champion since Ken Rosewall in 1970.
Williams has won all four career meetings against Vinci without dropping a set. She also is 7-0 against Pennetta and 6-1 against Halep in their career rivalries.
Only five players have completed the calendar-year sweep of the Australian, US and French Opens and Wimbledon — Americans Don Budge in 1938 and Maureen Connolly in 1953, Australians Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969 and Margaret Court in 1970 and Germany’s Graf in 1988.
Djokovic is 13-0 all-time against Cilic and if he stays perfect in the rivalry he will reach his fifth US Open final in six years, having only won the title in 2011.
Last year, Djokovic lost to Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the semifinals.
Federer has not won a major since his seventh Wimbledon title in 2012 and has not lifted the US Open trophy since 2008, but beat Djokovic in the final at Cincinnati in their US Open warm-up, avenging a loss to him in the Wimbledon finals.
The odds are on a potentially classic final between Austra- lian Open and Wimbledon winner Djokovic and Federer on Sunday.
Federer has a 21-20 lead over Djokovic in their career rivalry.