Surprised? Disappointed? No need to. Although Federer-Nadal is the final most people want to see in every tournament, Federer is no longer one of the top two players in the World. These two guys, with Nadal firmly positioned as the best in the ATP tour, are.
So what is there to know before the final tonight at Arthur Ashe? We’ll begin with Nadal, making his first appearance at the US Open Final and is favored to become the 7th man with Grand Slam trophies at all four majors. His road to the final was very comfortable, and he has yet to drop a set at Flushing Meadows this Summer, making minced meat of Mikhail Youzhny in the Semi’s.
Djokovic had a rought start to the tournament, dragged by fellow Serb Viktor Troicki, ranked 47th in the world, to a five setter. It was smooth sailing from there, not dropping a single set, beating James Blake, Mardy Fish, Gael Monfils and Phillip Petzschner in straight sets. Then came last night’s Semi against Roger. A huge match. Federer spat blood while taking the first and third sets, Djokovic took the second and fourth with relative ease. And in the fifth, with his back to the wall, serving while facing elimination, Djokovic seemed to find the right combination, while Federer seemed to self destruct a tad, with a very puzzling choice of shots, and he beat the best ever for the first time at Queens after three straight defeats against the Swiss.
Still, Nadal is a different story, and Djokovic had less than 24 hours to rest from his near four hour marathon with Federer. What do the numbers say?
Nadal has the clear edge against Djokovic, with a 14-7 record in their meeting. In Grand Slams? Djokovic hasn’t beaten Nadal in a major, with the Spaniard winning all four meetings between them, the last one being at the 2008 French Open Semi Final, with Nadal beating Djokovic 3-0. Finals of tournaments? Nadal has the 4-0 edge there as well, beating Djokovic last in the Rome Final in 2009, straight sets. He also beat Novak at Monte Carlo earlier that year, and Djokovic said “next time I face him, I’m probably going to have and play with two rackets. That’s the only way to beat him when he’s in this form.”
But, Djokovic does have an edge against Nadal when playing on Hard Courts, 7-3, and has beaten Nadal in their last three meetings, all on Hard Courts, but all in 2009, before Nadal found got his groove back.
And Nadal has certainly found it – Nadal has won two Grand Slams this year and made it to eight. Most importantly, he seems injury-free, ready to make a challenge on Federer’s Grand Slam record and his place on the All-Time objective and subjective expert and fan rankings. The way he’s been playing these past two weeks, Djokovic will have to create some very special blend to make it his second Grand Slam title, and will need the mind set and mental toughness he had against Federer last night during the fifth set. Still, even that might not be enough.