NEW YORK (AP) -- And for his next act ...
Roger Federer punctuated his latest U.S. Open victory Sunday with a shot he called, quite simply, the greatest of his life: a between-the-legs, back-to-the-net, cross-court winner from the baseline.
A point later, with the crowd in hysterics and opponent Novak Djokovic still in shock, the world's top-ranked player closed out the victory, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5, to move one win from his sixth straight U.S. Open title.
OK, who's got next?
Juan Martin del Potro is the lucky guy whose first career Grand Slam final will come against Federer, who made his 17th in the last 18.
Fourth-seeded Djokovic fought for more than 2 1/2 hours on a day that grew increasingly windy at Arthur Ashe Stadium, hanging with Federer and even grabbing two break points late in the third set to briefly see a glimmer of hope.
Some things, though, there are no answers for, and the winner Federer hit to set up match point was Exhibit A. It's the kind of shot every tennis player has tried -- oh, a thousand times or so. The best player in the world practices it, too.
"A lot, actually," he said. "But they never work. That's why, I guess, it was the greatest shot I ever hit in my life."
Ahead 6-5 and 30-0 in the third set, Federer sprinted to the net to return a Djokovic drop shot, then Djokovic finessed a lob over Federer's head that bounced barely inside the baseline.
Federer had nothing to lose, of course, so he ran back and hit the circus shot, a ball that lots of players, especially at the highest levels, can get back.
But few can do what Federer did with his -- i.e., hit a blazing winner that barely clears the net. Federer jumped and shouted. Djokovic could only stand there and smile. He reached in his pocket to find the ball he'd serve to bring the match to a merciful end -- for him, at least.
"You just say, `Well done,"' Djokovic said. "What can you do?"
Rafael Nadal looked lost, swallowed up by the huge serves and crushing forehands coming at him from his 6-foot-6 opponent across the net.
That was Juan Martin del Potro, who made his first Grand Slam final, handing Nadal a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 loss Sunday at the U.S. Open -- the worst loss Rafa has suffered in a major tournament.
"I think this is the best moment of my life," del Potro said.
Nadal was dealing with a strained abdominal muscle, and after the match he finally admitted the obvious -- that it was bothering him.
The six-time Grand Slam tournament champion also gave plenty of credit to del Potro, who deserved every bit of it after sapping all the life, and hope, out of a player whose relentlessness is one of his biggest attributes.
"I'm going to repeat: He played much better than me, and for that reason he beat me," Nadal said.