Once again one of the four tennis majors will be decided between two of the best in the world as No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal face off in the US Open Men’s Final (Monday, 5pm ET). The world number one ranking is also on the line.
The 26-year-old Djokovic emerged as one of the best in the world a few years ago and he hasn’t slowed down since. In 2013, that dominance has continued. Djokovic is 44-8 this year with three singles titles including the Australian Open crown, his fourth such title and his third in a row. He is the only person in the Open era to have accomplished such a feat.
Perhaps not so ironically, the only major Djokovic does not have is the French Open. It is the one that his opponent in the US Open final has won eight times, including each of the last four years and eight in the last nine. Rafael Nadal, a former No. 1 himself has stood in the way of Djokovic’s French Open dreams and based on how he has been playing in 2013, could stand in the way of him winning his second US Open.
Rafael Nadal – the Master of Hardcourts?
Before this tennis season, the 27-year-old Nadal was known to be the King of Clay and the master of the French Open. And make no mistake he still is, but after a devastating first round loss in the Wimbledon Championships, Nadal has been playing out of his mind on hardcourts too. In fact, he has just been playing out of his mind in general.
The Wimbledon loss had many thinking Nadal’s career was coming to an end. Coupled with injuries and a perceived declining ability on any surface but clay, Nadal seemed to go back to the drawing board. He was intent on reviving his career and in doing so, Nadal re-emerged as an even better player.
On the 2013 season, Nadal has won an incredible nine singles titles including both tournaments since Wimbledon. He has a record of 53-3 on the year as well and with a victory against Djokovic in the US Open finals, has a very good shot of finishing the year as No. 1.
He has run the table so far throughout the US Open, a tournament he too has won just once and unlike Djokovic, Nadal has yet to drop a set. He didn’t drop his first service game until his last match. Nadal is continuing to play the best tennis he has in years and at this point, just looks unbeatable.
Djokovic-Nadal is a Rivalry for the Ages
Just a few short years ago, the biggest rivalry in tennis was that between Nadal and one of the greatest to ever play the game, Roger Federer. And while this rivalry still carries steam, an unevenness of performances on both sides have made it so that Nadal and Federer at best would face off in semifinal matchups. But that hasn’t happened in quite a while now.
Instead, Nadal and Djokovic, No.2 and No.1, have become a fixture of grand slam finals including playing four consecutive in 2011-12. They have met in tournaments an incredible 36 times with Nadal owning the head-to-head in large part because of his 13-3 mark against Djokovic on clay.
For a while, Djokovic was the dominant party in this rivalry, beating Nadal in three consecutive grand slam finals. But as of late, Nadal has begun to even the score. His improved play on hardcourts should give Djokovic a reason to fear a bit as well. After all, Djokovic has since been the King of the hardcourts, a title Nadal seems poised to take away.
Djokovic owns the head-to-head when it comes to hardcourts, but Nadal is carrying all of the momentum. As was mentioned, Nadal has become a different player on hardcourts and you might as well throw the old stats out the window because of it.
Both are incredible competitors and both have been playing great tennis on the year. Both already have one slam in 2013 and are looking for their second. Both also have very similar styles of play, meaning that just like in the past, their US Open final should be one for the ages.
US Open Tennis Final Betting Pick
When Djokovic and Nadal play a tennis match, there is always an incredible outcome. Don’t expect that to be any different in the 2013 US Open final.
Nadal has been playing some of the best hardcourt tennis of his life, praise heaped on him by Djokovic himself. He also looks completely healthy, is moving around the court with such incredible fluidity, is hitting his improved serve in all of the right places and continues to play great defensive strokes along the baseline.
Djokovic meanwhile continues to play well along the baseline and is still one of if not the best returner in the game. While he hasn’t faced the new and improved Nadal serve that often, his own defensive abilities should be able to neutralize the serve to a point.
As the past stats between these two superstars have shown, both Djokovic and Nadal are at their very nature competitors. Neither give up points that often and Nadal especially does not quit on any ball. Expect the game to feature long and drawn out rallies, those of the variety that favor Nadal at this point.
A prominent question with Djokovic is if he will come out flat like he did in his semifinal match against Stanislas Wawrinka. He was able to rebound to win the match in five sets, but against Nadal, getting off to a slow start could mean a three set beat down. Expect the actual result to fall somewhere in between.
Nadal is the moneyline favorite as he should be. He should win the 2013 US Open and could do it in three sets if he continues to play his best. More realistically however, Nadal will take the win in four sets and will rise to the top of the rankings in doing so. It should be an entertaining match regardless.