2013 US Open Men’s Championship
1 Novak Djokovic vs. 2 Rafael Nadal
The top two seeds meet in the final of the US Open just as happened in the 2013 Wimbledon championship match. Novak Djokovic has won 24 matches in Grand Slam play in 2013, and Rafa has won 13. Yet, they each have 1 major title. The winner gets two even if Nole ends up with 10 more match wins in slams than Rafa.
2010 and 2011
Fortunately, we have some recent US Open finals to draw upon for figuring this one out in 2013. In 2010, Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in a pretty tough 4 set match. Nole is playing better today than he did in 2010. That bodes well for Djokovic.
In 2011, Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal in 4 brutal sets to win the US Open. Nadal is playing better than he was in 2011. That bodes well for Nadal.
Well that Did Not Help Much
Each man can feel good about playing better than he did when he lost in this match-up. Rafa’s form is undeniably strong right now. In general, I favor Nole in hard court matches with Nadal. I think each player knows what he needs to do to maximize his chances at victory. Nole must pressure Rafa’s serve and work over Rafa’s court positioning. Rafa must be forward minded on the court and test Novak’s mental toughness (the tiebreak in Montreal was not Nole’s best moment).
I keep changing my mind about who will win this match. Part of me thinks Rafa has played so well on hard courts that (a la Agassi in the summer of 1995) he is due for a small letdown. On the other hand, Nadal’s form and mental outlook seem unbeatable at the moment. Feeling invulnerable is a nice advantage to have.
If Nole wins this title, I think it will be because of the moment of joy he experienced during the 21 minute game versus Stan Wawrinka in the semifinal round. After bitter near misses at Wimbledon and the French Open, Novak has seemed a little off to me this Summer. The happy warrior seemed more like a brooding champion. If that one moment, let Novak get back to whatever love he felt for tennis as a kid, it might let him relax enough to play the tennis we saw from him in 2011.
My prediction: I have changed my mind at least 3 times just while writing this review. This could be an instant classic. I am taking Rafael Nadal to win his second US Open title because he seems to be in the sort of form Djokovic had in 2011. Supreme confidence is hard to beat. I think Rafa is not only playing better than he did in 2011 but also than he did in 2010. Novak on the other hand is playing better than he did in 2010, but he is not as self-assured as he was in 2011. Novak will have to rattle Rafa. I see Nadal winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. (Ask me again in the morning and I’ll likely give a different answer)