Simon Reed

In-form Nadal can break down the Djokovic machine

Simon Reed

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As a Brit, obviously it would have been great to see Andy Murray defending his US Open title to the wire in tonight’s Flushing Meadows final. Of course, he wasn’t quite right in Queens after the emotional win at Wimbledon, but either way there is no denying that we have the best possible final.

Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal will see the 2013 men’s singles title at the US Open decided by the top two players at the moment. I expect it to be an absolutely electric atmosphere, too.

It’s been a fantastic rivalry over the years and could go either way, but I’m going to nail my colours to the mast and predict a three or four set win for the Spaniard.

I’m admittedly a bit of a Rafa man, but it’s hard to deny that current momentum goes in Nadal’s favour.

It’s a fantastic pairing to have for the final. They have very similar career achievements and head-to-head records, and that is why current form is so important.

Djokovic looked to me like a man who was very much doubting himself in his fantastic semi-final against Stanislas Wawrinka. There were definitely a few moments where he legitimately looked as if he was going to lose.

He did come through it of course, and in typical Novak style. I know he raises his game in situations like that. And he definitely raises his game when he’s up against Rafa.

That could happen tonight. But you have to take things at face value and while Novak is playing quite mediocre tennis by his own standards, Nadal is playing the tennis of his life.

If things get tight, however, one thing Djokovic has going for him is his incredible engine. Five-set wars of attrition like the Wawrinka semi wipe out most players in the following round. Djokovic tends to play better going forward after such a long workout.

He’s brilliant at crisis management, and motivating himself in a pinch. If the final remains close in a fourth or fifth set, that will be when Djokovic for me can easily become the favourite. Until then, however, this is Rafa’s championship to lose.

The likelier scenario is that Nadal’s superior form will see him win before that stage. I don’t think it will be one-sided – each set will likely be a battle within itself, but I fancy Nadal in three or four hard-fought sets.

This match is also bigger for Nadal than it is for Djokovic. Nadal had a good record against Novak in Grand Slams, but it looked like Djokovic was beginning to get his number, so to speak. Rafa will be pleased to get that monkey completely off his back.

To lose to Djokovic after the year he has had would be a frightening scenario for Nadal, who will be so eager to pick up another non-French Open Grand Slam and prove once and for all that his injury problems will not demote him to simply being ‘King of Roland Garros’ – and nothing else.

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