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Will Federer vs Nadal finally happen in New York?
If at the beginning of the year someone said Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would sweep the majors, you would have probably been ridiculed by everyone around you and would have had larger odds than Leicester City before the beginning of their remarkable Premier League title winning season. But, as we head into the final Grand Slam of the year, what happened in the years of 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010 could astonishingly be reality again. That remarkable final in Melbourne was then followed by dominant displays by these two icons on their favourite surface. Now that we are back on a relatively neutral surface, can the greatest rivalry in sport (debatable, but let me have my moment) have its crowning jewel in the city that never sleeps?
In a year which has thrown shock after shock, it will take a very brave person to make a prediction for the US Open. But, life should be full of risks and I am putting my neck on the line. Federer and Nadal will not play in the US Open this year. They will be the top two seeds in New York, so the draw and many others will expect them to go out for battle on Arthur Ashe on 10 September. Why do I think they will not meet in the final? Even after winning the first three majors of the year, it may seem a fallacy to say that Federer and Nadal are bang in form to strike at the Open. However, the last few weeks have led these superstars to show that they are only human. Nadal has endured two shock defeats to young heroes in the making. Denis Shapovalov and Nick Kyrgios played exceptionally well in their matches against the Spaniard, but at least in the match against the charismatic Canadian, Nadal had numerous chances to be the victor. When playing against the enigmatic Kyrgios, it was clear to see that Nadal was not at his best and Kyrgios took full advantage of the lacklustre performance from his opponent. Could the rigours of playing a full season so far be taking its toll on his body? Throughout his extraordinary career, Nadal has had to contend with his body failing him at very unfortunate times, none more so than the Australian Open final three years ago. One wonders whether he can be fresh enough to have a full pronged assault on the draw in New York. Looking at his great rival, his comeback to the upper echelons of the sport has been equally spellbinding, but how long can it go on for? He rolled to the final in Montreal with ease and the plaudits were just endless for the Swiss. However in the final, he looked out of sorts and while that may be down to the stunning performance of Alex Zverev, it begs the question whether Federer’s season will now see a subdued ending. Regardless of whatever happens from now until November, it is the most remarkable year of Federer’s career. Despite being the favourite in New York, will his back allow him to play the free flowing tennis he has for the majority of the year?
To think Federer and Nadal are the only players that can beat each other would be hugely disrespectful to several players in the draw. As seen with Nadal in recent years, unheralded players like Fabio Fognini and Lucas Pouille can have the greatest nights of their careers to win against their idols. Moreover, there is a serious challenge from the young generation, looking to finally break through and deliver on the potential bestowed upon them. Zverev is leading the charge and with a second Masters 1000 title under his belt, the German’s confidence must only be increasing by the day. The one question mark on him is that he has never made it past the fourth round at a major, so should he not make a semi-final or final first before thinking of winning the whole thing? With the way this year has gone, it would not be a surprise to see him leave the Big Apple with the trophy in his hands. It would actually be a just reward for a talent, who will soon be the best player in the world. For more years than I can remember, Grigor Dimitrov has been heralded as the next great hope in tennis. But, surprising defeats and some other inexplicable reasons have stopped him from pushing on from a standout year in 2014. This year has again been a very interesting season for the Bulgarian. A heartbreaking semi-final defeat in Australia to Nadal made everyone sit up and take notice. However, surprising defeats again have made the progress for Dimitrov slower than expected but last week has changed all that. He finally delivered, winning a Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati without dropping a single set in the process. While the expectation for him to land a maiden Grand Slam in New York may be lower than in previous years due to all the focus being on Federer, Nadal and Murray, he could sneak through the draw and make another semi-final. From there, it is really anyone’s game and the 26 year old has the ability to beat anyone on his day. So, it is not just Federer and Nadal competing at the US Open, there are players ready to make their life difficult.
The final reason for me not expecting a final for the ages between the two greatest male players of all time (Murray, I hope you are proud. If you know, you know.) will seem ridiculous. It will seem as if there is no evidence for this reason and it is like plucking a number out of thin air. But that reason is destiny. Do you not find it astonishing that in all the 13 years of their storied rivalry, they have not yet walked out on the same court in New York? They have had numerous chances, in fact every year from 2008 to 2011 there was a possibility of meeting in the final. These are thought to be the peak years of their rivalry and when they were at their best, at least physically. They have played at least three times at all the other majors respectively, so it makes their New York story that much more remarkable. Just like when Bjorn Borg suddenly retired after his US Open defeat to John McEnroe denied him the chance to win in New York, a Federer vs Nadal final may just have to be a dream for fans in America. Sport has thrown anomalies like this time and again, and it would be little surprise to see either Federer or Nadal unexpectedly stopped before a fairytale meeting.
So, as the Grand Slam season comes to a close in the next two weeks, all eyes will again be on the two best players in the world. But, be wary of putting your money on a final between them, history and several players are against you.