NEW YORK • Novak Djokovic sat out last year's US Open to rest an elbow injury that eventually required surgery, but that pain and frustration felt like a distant memory on Friday when he made his march on the final at Flushing Meadows with authority.
The Serb barely played in the second half of last year as his ailing body demanded a lengthy hiatus, but the rejuvenated Wimbledon champion now appears hungrier than ever, intent on making up for lost time by claiming his second Grand Slam title of the year.
"There was always part of me that believed I could come back relatively quickly to the level of tennis that I once was playing," the sixth seed told reporters after he completed a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 semi-final demolition of Japan's Kei Nishikori.
"But at the same time, I felt like the six months off served me very well to find new motivation, inspiration, to recharge my batteries."
The 31-year-old roared back into the spotlight when he ended a 54-week title drought in style by securing his 13th career Grand Slam title in July with a performance that suggested he has plenty of majors left in him.
And the world No. 6, clearly enjoying the fruits of his labour, again showed he was the man to beat after delivering a comprehensive performance against Nishikori, with impeccable serving, solid returning and dominating from the back of the court.
Next up is a mouth-watering clash against Argentinian third seed Juan Martin del Potro today and should Djokovic bag a third New York crown, he would join 14-time Grand Slam winner Pete Sampras in joint-third on the all-time list, trailing only Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (17).
Few would have predicted such a remarkable turnaround for Djokovic, who lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open, underwent surgery on his right elbow and fell at the first hurdle in Indian Wells and Miami on his return.
But Djokovic, who looked on from the sidelines while Federer and Nadal padded their Grand Slam totals, now stands one victory away from winning Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year for the third time in his career.
"These are pinnacles of our sport - Majors. It's where you want to play your best," he added. "There is something special about them.
"Especially the top players, they always try to set their own form, so to say, around the Grand Slams because that's where they want to play their best."