Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - First Alternate
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First Alternate 09/11/2010 - 11:24 PM

Nd Or . . . maybe not.

OK, history has eluded us, and, no matter how thrilling and nerve-wracking the match we just saw was—and it was easily the match of the tournament, if not the year—that takes a few minutes to get over. But look at it this way: What are the chances that Roger and Rafa would have put on a more scintillating and dramatic show than Roger and Novak? It’s hard to imagine.

From the Djokovic perspective, it’s just too bad this couldn’t have been a final. It deserved to be a final. He reacted, naturally, as if it were a final, staring, stunned, at his delirious parents in their I-don’t-give-a-damn-if-Anna-Wintour-is-here, my-son-is-awesome T-shirts. It was a poignant moment, I thought. Djokovic, like his mom and dad, wears his ambition on his sleeve—and his back, and his hat—and that ambition was always to be No. 1 and to unseat Federer. Three years ago, when he reached the final here and won in Australia, Djokovic appeared to be the streamlined future of the modern game, a player who fused clean and uncluttered ball-striking with an uncannily flexible athleticism.

Since then, while he’s remained in the Top 5, Djokovic has also had to learn to live with being a third-fiddle—this will be his first Slam final since he won in Melbourne in 2008. At times, like last year’s semi against Federer at the Open, Djokovic has accepted his fate too readily. But it was clear from the beginning on Saturday that we were going to get him at his best. Federer was sharp from the baseline early; 99 percent of the time that would be enough. But Djokovic was on every ball, giving as good as he got, if not better. Federer drove Djokovic back, but he ended most of the points on his own heels.

Djokovic’s head wasn’t ready to keep up with what his body, his hands, his shots were doing. He botched two service games and lost the first set; he botched one and lost the third. Otherwise, it was his match through four sets. The fifth belonged to both of them. This was the tennis I’ve been waiting all year to see. To put it in British sportswriting terms, each player had the answers to the other one’s questions. Federer picked up his serving in the fifth, but Djokovic lifted his return higher. Federer showed off his flick flat backhand pass, a shot that no one else has ever owned. But Djokovic’s passes were threaded to equal perfection. It got to the point in the middle of the fifth where neither of them wanted to venture forward unless there was no other choice. Federer remained passive on his returns, and Djokovic refused to come in even after cracking an utterly devastating approach, which he did many times. I couldn’t blame either of them. Both had been burned enough times up there.

Federer reached double match point, but there was something in Djokovic today at the start that stuck with him until the end. He was, simply, hitting the ball too well to lose. He smacked a titanic swinging volley on one match point and a blistering forehand an inch from the line on another. And when he served for the match and went down break point, he swung with total confidence at a forehand that Federer couldn’t handle. Watching the final rally, listening to Djokovic work and grunt, I thought: He’s not going to miss.

***

Now, in less than 24 hours, he gets the rested and hungry Nadal, who also happens to be playing the best hard-court tennis of his career. Before his semi with Mikhail Youzhny, I said that the Russian would be able to hit his backhand down the line, and that that would trouble the lefty Nadal. Ha! Youzhny spent the afternoon darting from sideline to sideline and flailing futilely. Nadal’s shots look heavier than ever, and he was expert at finding the inside-out corner deep into Youzhny’s forehand. He dismissed a guy who had beaten him four times on hard courts, and made the No. 12 player in the world look like a sparring partner at best.

Should we expect anything else in the final? Is Nadal a lock? It’s certainly all working in his favor, and he couldn’t ask for a better chance to finish off his career Slam. But there’s work to be done. Nadal is 14-7 against Djokovic for his career (the same record he has against Federer), but Djokovic is 7-3 on hard courts, with straight-set wins in their last three meetings. While Federer and Nadal have staged their share of classics, Djokovic and Nadal may be the more entertaining rivalry from a rally-to-rally standpoint. Remember Hamburg 2008? Beijing 2008? Madrid 2009? All were epics of baseline brutality. And they all developed the same way. Djokovic started strong, using his ability to drill the ball down the line with power and accuracy to put Nadal on the defensive. But as the games wore on, Nadal wore Djokovic down with his speed and accuracy and cussed determination. Djokovic couldn’t keep finding his spots on those risky shots over the high part of the net.

Only one of those matches was on hard courts, at the Olympics in 2008, which was played with the same ball and on the same surface as the Open. It went down to the wire, and Djokovic lost it on a horrifying shank overhead at 4-5 in the third. Nadal, who is No. 1 and may be playing the very finest and heaviest tennis of his career, must be the favorite. Djokovic, the more fatigued player, will likely work to shorten points. But while he’ll be more fatigued, he’ll also come out on an emotional high after Saturday. I can imagine Djokovic firing away early and winning a first set. Then I can imagine Nadal winning the rest.


 
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Comments
 
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Posted by Papo (Got Nadal?) 09/11/2010 at 11:26 PM

First!

Vamos Rafa!

Posted by Papo (Got Nadal?) 09/11/2010 at 11:29 PM

Steve, didn't you pick Federer to win the tournament? The legend of Tignor's curse grows, lol!

Posted by BellaDona 09/11/2010 at 11:32 PM

Great match! I expect more of the same tomorrow. Vamos Rafa!!

Posted by xb 09/11/2010 at 11:37 PM

I'd dearly love to see Rafa get the Career Slam, so tomorrow is nervewrecking for me, even though all the ad. seems to be in his column.

This is like the position Federer was in at Australian Open 2009, when he was facing a tired Nadal and it was taken for granted he'd tie Sampras's record and undergo his coronation. Little did he know how much Rafa wanted that title.

Will Djokovic have the same fire tomorrow? I don't know. I suppose the difference is that he's facing Nadal, the one who pulled off that extraordinary feat in Australia. Could Nadal possibly blink during this, his greatest chance at the USO title?

I'll be watching every point, that's for sure.

Posted by Papo (Got Nadal?) 09/11/2010 at 11:42 PM

It wasn't a classic match. When Djokovic played well, he dominated the set, but when Federer stayed with him and things got tight he'd lose his nerve, like when he got broken to love at a key point in the third set. What the heck was that?

But it was a great fifth set. I still don't know how Djokovic managed to save those match points. Even he admits he just went for it, hehe.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Queen Bee,Do It For Wayne Rafa! 09/12/2010 at 12:03 AM

Steve Thanks.

Be Careful What You Wish For? Rafa v Roger in the final.Nothing is ever a Given in tennis and that point was again proved today.

I must admit I admired Novak's mental and focus throughout the match.He didnt go away.Just when I thought Roger came back Nole was there.Novak of late has been missing on big points in matches.Today he believed.Well done Novak.

In regards to the Rafa v Youzhny match I loved the way Rafa neutralised his b/hand in the match.Uncle Toni and Rafa did their home work well.Rafa did what he had to do in the match and won in 3 sets.

Being a Rafa fan if you were to tell me Rafa would make the final of the USO and not dropping a set I would declare you "mad" to say the least.

Finals again is a different story.Novak leads Rafa on the hard courts.Though Rafa has a head to head 14-7 lead.

I hope both players bring their respective games.Good luck to both.

Posted by Account Deleted 09/12/2010 at 01:01 AM

Nadal was not really tested yet . Djokovic will take it all .

Posted by cm 09/12/2010 at 01:01 AM

it's pretty much a guarantee that it will rain on sunday...anyone think that the whole day will be washed out and we will have a monday final?

Posted by Ben 09/12/2010 at 01:07 AM

The only I want to say is Go Rafa!!!! How sweet it will be to see him raise the winners trophy tomorrow!

Posted by bobby 09/12/2010 at 01:09 AM

I think it'll be a terrific match regardless of the outcome. Of course, it's easy to be optimistic as a fan of both players. I just hope the casual tennis fans of the world can appreciate the mouth-watering matchup of Rafa/Nole and see past the disappointment of the media-friendly Rafa/Roger final not happening.

After the downright beatdowns Nole laid on Rafa on hardcourts at the tail end of 2009, Rafa is bound to be hankering for revenge. I'd be happy to see either player win but I just hope it's competitive and not too windy!

Posted by bdscks 09/12/2010 at 01:18 AM

go Nole, you deserve the tittle.

Posted by jf 09/12/2010 at 01:25 AM

Ok this was a good tennis match but not great. Why? Becasue Federer was not firing on his serve, at all. The fact that Federer was serving below 50% for the first 4 sets (??) and yet Djokivic could not put him away is remarkable - a remarkable testimony to how good Federer is. Saying this I don't want to take anything away from Djokovic, especially in that last set. A superb, gutsy performance, when both men must have been mentally and physically exhausted.

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/12/2010 at 01:35 AM

Wow, most of the writers chose Murray. Pffft.
Next choice was Federer, even Steve got sucked in. Pffft.
Just about everybody said that Hardcourt is not suited to Nadal's game.

What did Nadal do? Premiered his new found game play for HC and conquered it with a more devastating and faster serves, the lethal forehand but using it earlier and the volley!

It is just a marvel to see the transformation of Nadal mastering clay, mowing Roger in grass and now polishing the hard courts.

But, of course, congratulations to Djok for making the career Golden Slam for Nadal all the more realizable.

It will be an entertaining final tomorrow.

Djok will entertain us with his Roger/Rafa antics after his loss. He may yet do a striptease. Looking forward to that show.

Posted by Iftikhar 09/12/2010 at 01:42 AM

Every one is talking about how strong Novak was. Why doesn't anybody come out with the fact that Saturday was an example of self destruction by Federer, something which he has been doing quite frequently in the recent past. Compare his performance yesterday with the QF against Soderling and you will know whether Novak was great or Federer was "pathetic". He was erratic, his serve was not working, his backhand wasn't working, he could not win the simplest of points, and most of all he was sluggish on many critical points. I have been a Federe fan for a long time and this match was a nightmare for me. I seriously think Federer should either do something to play more consistent Tennis, or announce his retirement while he is still among the top three!!!

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/12/2010 at 01:49 AM

Today, was a revelation day. Today, again just exposed who Roger really is. He is nothing but one conceited, arrogant player.

He declared just as in the French Open, he is not going to watch the final because he is not in it!!! Such arrogance and a slap to us tennis fans who pay good money for the sport of tennis, whether he is in it or not.

Sure, he got beat and feel sore, but that statement just says a lot.

Not sorry for Roger at all. He is getting away with his arrogance simply because he is a cash cow for most of the sponsors and organizers.

Not for long.

Good riddance.

Hasta la bye bye, Roger!!!

Posted by Russ 09/12/2010 at 01:51 AM

Nadal wins 2, 5, and 3. Barely breaks a sweat.

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/12/2010 at 01:53 AM

Roger, nobody cares whether you are in the tournament or not anymore.

Consider yourself lucky that you did not have to face Nadal in the Finals!

Else, your would have gotten a trashing much worse than 08 French Open.

so, thanks to Djok for sparing us the massacre of a supposedly GOAT that is nothing but Rafa's whipping boy.

Posted by R.Balamurugan Malaysia 09/12/2010 at 01:55 AM

Congrats Rafa....As i'm a die hard fan of Rafa, i would definitely want Rafa to complete his career Slam....and i'm so sure he will, looking at the way he has been dominant in his run-up to the Final....

Congrats to Djokovic who successfully spoiled the Rafa-Federer final...but i feel that Djokovic would fall flat for the title....

looking forward to an explosive Final....Way to go Rafa....THE RAFA SLAM...

Posted by ixvnyc 09/12/2010 at 01:57 AM

"his serve was not working"

shoot. i guess we forgot to wake him up at 2am so he can tune it up :)
serves him right for inviting anna wintour into the box. devil wears RF!

Posted by Resa 09/12/2010 at 02:02 AM

Is Nadal a lock? It’s certainly all working in his favor, and he couldn’t ask for a better chance to finish off his career Slam"
//////////////////

tsk, tsk, tsk...Steve, Steve you never learn some basic things. It's been barely 24 hours since your latest terrible prediction (Rafa and Fed final, because tehy deserve each other"). And yet you just entered another one.

Who will win? Nobody knows, since both players have the ability to beat each other in straights. BUT, that this is Rafa's "best chance to win his creer slam", is a terrible analysis. Just because the same reason I just wrote above.

Looking forward to your post match "analysis".

Posted by ttorra 09/12/2010 at 02:03 AM

well.... i really like federer...bu...i thought roger was lucky to get thru soderling.90%of the time when there was a rally...2nd or 3rd shot of rogers was either over the court or into the net.against soderling rogers service game won because soderling couldnt return.when he was able to return.. soderling 90%of time won the point.sgainst novak he wasnt so lucky.novak could return rogers serve.had roger played nadal i believe nadal would have beat roger 3 straight.right now rogers return game is just average.if he wants to dominate again hes going to have to work at his game like nadal!!

Posted by ForegoneConclusion 09/12/2010 at 02:04 AM

Djokovic doesn't have enough time to recover after an exhausting semi. Nadal, on the other hand, is fresh as a daisy. Sunday result is a foregone conclusion. Nadal in three.

Super Saturday, what a dumb idea.

Posted by ixvnyc 09/12/2010 at 02:05 AM

oh, lets remember steve's original predictions:

Semifinals: Murray d. Nadal; Federer d. Fish
Final: Federer d. Murray
Champion: Roger Federer


Posted by Resa 09/12/2010 at 02:06 AM

espnalanaldo...be afraid. Be very afraid!

Posted by Resa 09/12/2010 at 02:12 AM

Posted by ixvnyc 09/12/2010 at 01:57 AM
"his serve was not working"


/////////////////

lol...you hit a nail on its head!
I remember that interview about his serving. Well, today there was A returner he was facing while trying to serve.

Posted by david 09/12/2010 at 02:14 AM

go f*ck yourself, djo, u're just a clown who happens to be lucky today. rafa will take u out in straight sets. thanks to ur presence in the final, there will be 90% less crowd in the stadium since we all know who will win this --> Rafa!!

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/12/2010 at 02:16 AM

RESA,

... be afraid. Be very afraid! Really be very afraid!!!

Posted by jawad 09/12/2010 at 02:20 AM

Great result for Novak and Tennis.I remember writing on this forum under topic "my 10 wishes foe 2010" that I would love to see Federer lose early in GSs as my no. 1 wish and although QF and SF losses are not early but they are losses after all.
I think its a huge win for Novak after losing for three stright years at US open to same player and that too in final and SFs.He must feel now that he can do anything now and give his 100% for final.
People wishing Federer to win are really cruel and have no sense of justice.A young player has been losing for three years now to same player who has won 16 GSs and 5 US opens and you still want him to win more?
Great confidence boosting victory for Novak and can be a huge factor in his coming years.
I dont have a particular favourite in final I will be happy if either of them wins.
It will be first US open title for both and a "first" is always good.I just feel a Novak win will be much better than Nadals.

Posted by Resa 09/12/2010 at 02:26 AM

Novak is the luckiest guy on earth!! Absolutely. Nobody is even close lucky as him. Here is why:

"In the fourth round he got Mardy Fish, who conveniently forgot he was a New Player. In the quarters, he got Gael Monfils, who conveniently forgot that he was a tennis player at all." (by Steve Tignor).

And now he faced Roger Federer who couldn't serve. He beat himself. (Never mind he stated right after destroying Soderling by his serve that serving is what he pratising for and that you can wake him up at 2Am he will serve as sharp as he did in that windy day!!).

So, every opponent facing Djokovic just forgot how to play tennis!!...and beat themselves.

Isn't it the best of the luck??

Posted by Resa 09/12/2010 at 02:30 AM

looking forward to watch another Nole's trashing of Rafa on fast surface.

Have you seen those heavy artilery cannonades were flying around federer today? No? I do not blame you...because of their speed neither Roger saw them.

If Rafa could fly he might go to the 5th set tomorrow.

Pay back time!!

Posted by Tennis2Tennis 09/12/2010 at 02:32 AM

Nole's preformance would have been even more celebrated if Roger hadn't committed 66 unforced errors, how this smatch went to 5 with that stat is anyones guess!

and it's because Roger played sooooooooooo bad that I doubt Nole can do anything in the final against player who will not gift him that many UE's!

Posted by Resa 09/12/2010 at 02:35 AM

espnalanaldo, what weapon is rafa going to use to beat Nole in todays final? I cannot think of any. Ask Roger what's feel like.

To add, have you already forgotten last 3 (THREE) humiliating matches on HC against Novak? You might, it's been al before clay court season.

Do not bother roaming through the archive. Just watch today's final and you'll remember all of them.

Posted by zolarafa 09/12/2010 at 02:36 AM

Steve,
great article as always.
I am so very happy for for Rafa. He reached his first US Open final. Hopefully he can see what differences can a good schedule make. I always praised Federer's way of managing his schedule. Rafa should do the same .

Bad loss for Fed in the semis but great match play by Djoko. His reaction said it all. To me this match was like a final. Too bad it was played just a day before the final. It is not fair and I hope the US Open considers changes very soon.

Best of luck to Rafa tomorrow. Hopefully they can play and finish the match with minimum or no rain delay!

Posted by Carlos Moya 09/12/2010 at 02:38 AM

if the match is NOT postponed on sunday rafa wins in 3, and if the games IS postponed till monday rafa in 3 also! lol ..... score 7-5 6-3 6-4 ..... rafa will be the youngest grand slam winner in the open era and people and pundits will start to consider him for goat =))

Posted by Resa 09/12/2010 at 02:40 AM

espnalnaldo, I like you. Because you're fun to talk to.

Please, send the message tou your boy to watch for those deep flat penetrating bullets passing by at 160m/hour. There will be plenty of them. Djoko just stated that he was going to recharge his cannons.

Posted by bdscks 09/12/2010 at 02:41 AM

espnalanaldo = troll.

Posted by ixvnyc 09/12/2010 at 02:42 AM

enough joking around, let's talk some tennis.

when you keep hitting service winners all tournament, and you finally run into
the guy who keeps retuning them deep... the fact that your serve comes undone as the match goes on MOST CERTAINLY has something to do with that guy!

when you keep running forward and finishing guys off at the net all tournament, and you
finally run into the guy who can hit a passing shot, who can guess which way you send the volley... the fact that you become hesitant to attack MOST CERTAINLY has something to do with that guy!

when you keep building large leads over the guys who can't string a bunch of points without making an UFE, and then you finally run into the guy who just doesn't err much...
the fact that you start making errors while trying to figure out a new way to win the points that no longer just open themselves up for you MOST CERTAINLY has something to do with...

NOVAK DJOKOVIC!

Posted by Resa 09/12/2010 at 02:44 AM

Rafa should erect Wawrinka a monument for taking Murray out of his quarter. Otherwise, he would've waited for another 10 years before making this final.

Posted by ixvnyc 09/12/2010 at 02:46 AM

"In the fourth round he got Mardy Fish, who conveniently forgot he was a New Playet"

Steve made a prediction that Mardy will make the semis, which now looks silly.
Obviously, it was Mardy's fault :)

Posted by Resa 09/12/2010 at 02:46 AM

Posted by jf 09/12/2010 at 01:25 AM
....- a remarkable testimony to how good Federer is.
?????????????????????????

yeah, agreed. Now try to imagine how remarkably good was the guy who knocked him out!!

Posted by Resa 09/12/2010 at 02:57 AM

Posted by ixvnyc 09/12/2010 at 02:42 AM

I really, really liked your subtle analysis and true revelation about the most recent match at USO.

That explains why Roger Federer falls within the group of players who conveniantly fogot how to play tennis when facing Novak Djokovic across the net.

Posted by bdscks 09/12/2010 at 03:00 AM

@ixvnyc

good work man.

Posted by Resa 09/12/2010 at 03:03 AM

It's quiet now. Hey Rogerlities....let's sit down and talk some tennis here.

Posted by Azhdaja 09/12/2010 at 03:09 AM

Steve, the best Headline for your yesterdays "article" would be

"The Return of Djoker".

Posted by garb0 09/12/2010 at 03:15 AM

That fifth set was just amazing, among the best I've seen. Djoker hasn't played this good since AO 2008.

Posted by Azhdaja 09/12/2010 at 03:24 AM

Roiger Fed @ presser:

Honestly, I think he played already well against me the last three times we played here in New York. So it was not like the guy can't play under pressure. He's proven his point, and time and time again. I knew he was gonna be a really tough opponent.

The guys who overlooked him don't know anything about tennis, unfortunately.

Posted by Azhdaja 09/12/2010 at 03:28 AM

garb0, yup. It's amazing to me watching Novak's heavy duty ground strokes. Especially his FH! It appeared that he had better FH than Roger's. In last 6 winners 5 were by his BH shots!

Actually, Djoko destroyed Federer in last 3 games by his FH shots. If he uses those against Rafa today, Nadal is out in 3 sets. Those shots were just booming around surprised Roger.

Posted by Femstar 09/12/2010 at 03:32 AM

In some ways, this is the best final we could have gotten. I am a very big Roger fan but his game is too uncertain these days for a match with Rafa and I'd rather Rafa won US with someone else as the other end not a pre-washed out Roger.

Novak is hungry and is itching to get another grand slam and provided his body holds up might just give Rafa a sterner and much more probing test. On the flip side, he will me match sharp cos he hasnt been playing against people who fold before they get there. Roger's draw was tough and he doesnt have it in him anymore to take out 2-3 top 8's in a slam. Its asking way too much of anyone.

May the best man win.

Nole, I ask one thing. Leave it all out there. Please

Posted by Azhdaja 09/12/2010 at 03:34 AM

ooops! A typo: above "...5 were by his BH shots!"

Should stay "...5 were by his FH shots!"

Sorry guys.

Posted by petewho 09/12/2010 at 04:14 AM

I think your probably right Steve , it does look like Nadal will win this by simply weathering an early storm and wearing him out .

You cant imagine Nadal not going all out today in what must seem like his least dangerous advesary ,but I agree too that perhaps Novak was the harder oppoenent given his head to head , which of course might also be why Fed lost as much as anything else yesteday when remembering how was in the final.

Logic says Nadal , but Im going to go with Novak because he does seem to have different look in his eye and because - like with Roger yesterday - he knows even though he has lost to Nadal on other surfaces its has always been very close.

Novak isnt as popular as Nadal or Roger , but you can tell hes trying to win the crowd over and in many ways to me seems far more real than ROger or Nadal for doing it.

You dont get that with impression Nadals continued praising of people like Murray ( i mean comon ) is really meant , or Rogers Mr ( remember hi post wimbledon comments this year ) nice guy , its just an act / a mask as much any one else uses in publid, but one they've had to hone - as part of their games - well.

Nadal winning would be good in as much as it would offically start him on the quest to challanged the current PAPER GOAT's record and possibly reignite a final rivalry there before Fed is offically dead.

Posted by petewho 09/12/2010 at 04:29 AM

I think this loss is going to push Roger into an early year regime - perhaps more training / work like Agassi used to do , to get the jump on others down Under.

Its sets up bit more intensity there in Australia whatever happens - esp with Delboy back and it being Murrays 2nd best chance of winning a slam.

Ahh, the intrigue , tennis at its best :)

Posted by MindyM 09/12/2010 at 04:31 AM

I have been saying it over and over again, but the bloggers online and so-called tennis experts never learn. There is no such thing as a sure thing at a slam! I got so fed up with every know-it-all predicting Fed and Murray as the favorites for this year's AO. Huh? So the young man who came back with a vengeance to win ALL of the clay court Masters tournaments, RG and Wimbledon and regain the #1 ranking, was not a real threat? Oh, of course, I forgot! It's hardcourt and we all know that Rafa can't win a slam on hardcourt now, can he! I guess some people had a brain cramp and forgot that Rafa has already won the Australian Open. But nevermind, that's a slower hardcourt, more friendly to Rafa's game! This is one of the fastest hardcourts and Rafa cannot handle it, no way!

I love it when so many end up looking like utter fools! Rafa debuted his brand new serve, his secret weapon and we had our September surprise. Who knew that Rafa could serve in the 130's, reaching a speed of 135 mph? Who knew that Rafa's serve would only be broken two times as he reached his first ever final here? Who knew that Rafa wouldn't drop a set to get to the final? No, so many others knew better. Fortunately, Rafa wasn't listening. He just went out there and confounded the doubters and naysayers one more time.

Murray got knocked out in the third round by Wawrinka! So much for one favorite. Here's a guy who has yet to win his first slam and yet he was considered a co-favorite with Fed because of his win at Toronto! When will the experts stop putting so much faith in the results at Toronto and Cincy? When will they ever learn? You do not rule out Rafa anywhere, anytime, at any slam! Now Fed is gone and we don't have the matchup that everyone was hoping for finally at the USO. However, we have a darn good one waiting for us tomorrow! So many have forgotten the great matches between Rafa and Djoko.

I expect a brilliantly contested final. Both of these young men are playing for something incredibly important to them. Djoko wants to finally win another slam after more than two and a half years. He also wants to be taken seriously again, be in the mix, the discussion when it comes to slams. He wants to realize his potential. Rafa is chasing history. He can be only the seventh player to achieve the career slam and the first man since the great Rod Laver to win RG, Wimbledon and the USO all in the same year. If he wins, he will be the only player to do it on all surfaces. Could there be any more at stake?

I want this for Rafa more than anything. I want it because the great Borg couldn't hang in there and keep trying until he won it. I want it for all the anguish, pain and heartache Rafa has suffered on the long road back to redemption. I want it because many had written Rafa off after he exited this year's AO with another knee injury. I want it so that there won't be any more asterisks next to Rafa's name in the tennis history books. No more what if's, could have's or should have's.

I will be watching and cheering Rafa on as he goes after history and his destiny!

Posted by Prashant Sharma 09/12/2010 at 04:35 AM

@espanaldo
another fanatic, blind, hatred filled comment by you on the mesage board. You are definitely one of the most spiteful individuals I have seen in my life. All Roger said was that he would go shopping with his family and wouldnt watch the final as he want in it. what is so wrong about that? Is he a servant of Rafa that he is supposed to watch his matches? Man I do hope that Rafa loses this match.
Time and time again you abuse Roger on this forum with the blind hatred that you have & time and time again I re-iterate that you cannot love Rafa by hating Roger so much.
Rafa still has to win 8 more slams to equal roger. 8 is a lot!
Man I did not think that this kind of fanaticism is possible in today's day and age. shameful!

Posted by Mia 09/12/2010 at 04:42 AM

2010 US Open is NOT about old rivalry or new rivalry.

It’s NOT about Federer, Djokovic, or Murray, or some other players.

It’s ABOUT Nadal making history by winning a Career Grand Slam!!!

The last three Grand Slam finals have one common denominator only, and his name is Rafael Nadal.

Let the Lion of Majorca roar in New York this Sunday.

VAMOS RrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrAFA!!!

Posted by daniel 09/12/2010 at 04:45 AM

i really can't help thinking federer (probably subconsciously) lost to avoid nadal. the see saw scoreline with novak perhaps illustrated the internal conflict between the obvious need to win and the old fear of nadal.

think about what a loss in the final to nadal would mean to the rivalry; 6 losses from 8 slam finals with the guy, a loss in the final of EVERY major, a 4th consecutive major loss, a loss on his absolute best surface and nadals worst. it would have been the definitive, crushing defeat in a series of crushing defeats. deep down i dont think he was willing to risk all that.

Posted by Nesa 09/12/2010 at 05:02 AM

I will repeat what I said yesterday: Sorry Steve, but Nadal will not be the winner. Novak is better hard court player and he will prove it. Americans always shedule matches to have huge TV audience; semifinals should be sheduled on Friday and final on Sunday; I hope this time rain will spoil their plans. If they play on Monday, Rafa will not win a single set. He was not tested yet on this US Open.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 09/12/2010 at 05:05 AM

@Daniel
None of these top guys 'lose' to avoid being beaten by someone else. If that was the case Roger would have been tanking all those matches on clay to avoid playing Rafa in the finals. Then this rivalry would have been in Rogers favour! The only reason Rafa has a great H2H against Roger is because Roger was good enough to be second best to him on all those clay matches.
Hence no credence in this theory.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 09/12/2010 at 05:08 AM

@Mia
I agree with you. This slam is about Rafa. It always was. And it seems that he can do so. All Rafa fans would be hoping for that.
However, the Djoker would be hoping to prove everyone wrong and capture his 2nd slam.

Posted by Pepe 09/12/2010 at 05:10 AM

@daniel

You nailed it!

Posted by Servus 09/12/2010 at 05:20 AM

Congratulations to Nole and his fans. He had a good game plan and executed it efficiently. Concerning the final match, if it is indeed played today, Rafa should have the upper hand. However, if is postponed until tomorrow, than Nole should prevail, as he owns Rafa on HC.

Posted by Mike Romeling 09/12/2010 at 05:27 AM

Good article and great match. Concerning Federer, it is hard to be in denial any more that he is finding it increasingly difficult to not only convert match points, but also break points in general--his percentage of converting them being very poor of late. It kind of reminds me of what older golfers often say when asked what they think happened when their results began to diminish. They will almost always say their driving and iron games remained sound but that when it came time to seal the deal with 6-8 foot puts to get their birdie or save their par, the putts would no longer fall consistently. It will be interesting to see if Roger can reverse this trend at this point in his career.

Posted by Charlie 09/12/2010 at 05:39 AM

great story either way-
Nadal gets his 1st US Open and career slam,
or Djoko beats the world's top 2 players to win his second slam.

I'm wanting Nads to take it, also coz I want more of thee gyrating celebratory moves he's been practicing in front of the floor to ceiling mirror. But last night really woke me up to Djoko again. So best of luck to both men.

Posted by Momstootie 09/12/2010 at 05:43 AM

Way to go, Nole! I'd like to see a rivalry develop between Novak and Rafa. Yes, Novak is ambitious but let's give the eastern Europeans a break. They have been through a lot and don't really have a certain sophistication. I think the boy's heart is right and he is way more humble than Federer. And wasn't it nice to see that Youzny was a married man with a child? What a novel idea.

Posted by KraljevicMarko 09/12/2010 at 05:49 AM

Djokovic OWNS Nadal on hardcourts. He is going to walk him like a puppy, wait and see ;)


And yes djokovic IS beter than federer against nadal on hardcourt and nadal i beter than djokovic against federer (on hardcourt).

Federer is scared of nadal and djokovic is scared of federer and nadal is scared of djokovic ;)

Just leave your heart on the court nole, please.... Give it all!!!!!

Posted by yinka 09/12/2010 at 06:43 AM

@ daniel
great analysis.
i also feel federer needs a good psychologist.
he seems he can't handle pressure so well.

vamos rafa!

Posted by johnyy 09/12/2010 at 06:58 AM

i hope the usa 2010 champion will be................Novak Djokovic

Posted by Kombo 09/12/2010 at 07:35 AM

Super Saturday is nonsense. The organizers need to get their act together or the USO will continue to slide relative to the other slams.

Posted by MolerX 09/12/2010 at 08:14 AM

Is this tennis.com or tennis_gambling.com? Why are you so opssesed with (poorly) guesing scores?
Nadal will not be hungry for the match too; he will have a nice balanced lunch just before the match!

Posted by Mike 09/12/2010 at 08:19 AM

Gotta love it when ridiculously biased Rafa fans (include me in the latter) compare 23 and 24 year olds at their peak to a 29 year in natural decline. I'd put my money on a 2006 TMF in today's final over either ... in a heartbeat. Fact is, growing older happens ... and it takes some accuracy, a 1/2 step and some confidence with it, no doubt. This was going to inevitably happen.

Posted by princepro110 09/12/2010 at 08:24 AM

As someone who predicted the score last year in del Porto over Roger FEDEX .......I took great pride in predicting the score yesterday of Djokovic over Roger FEDEX in five sets also.............I said Djokovic 6-2 in the 5th .........sorry I missed the correct score in the 5th.

I also posted the broads final would be a bore and I would rather watch paint dry........I glad I settled to watch my paint dry in my basement last night. What a dud and a bore that must have been......I did not watch a point! If the womens US Open was on a different week as the mens they could not draw flies to the USTA tennis Center!

Let the broads play on Sunday and the mens final on Monday prime time!

Posted by Zäsor 09/12/2010 at 08:34 AM

@espnalanaldo

You are one of the biggest clowns to ever have walked on earth. You're really all ond only about bashing and hating even if there's no reason, no argument to, at all. So what, Federer doesn't feel like watching the final - you call that arrogance? Ridiculous. Nothing arrogant about that...but yeah, go on with your insulting and disrespecting...while you should be pleased considering your beloved Rafa is in the final...but hey, great job - you obviously rather spend and waste your time hating on Federer...way to g...tzzzz...get a life, dude.

Posted by griff 09/12/2010 at 08:44 AM

I just don't see Novak winning this.

Posted by Stack 09/12/2010 at 08:45 AM


In response to Mike's comment about age 29 being the explanation for Federer's loss, what about Rod Laver being allowed to play again at age 29 after being forced to miss over 5 years of his prime and winning a true grand slam all in the same year? I guess the age excuse is useful if there is no other explanation.

Posted by Ívan 09/12/2010 at 08:47 AM

Crossing fingers for Djokovic.

Posted by petewho 09/12/2010 at 08:48 AM

Now Now , no need for harsh words.

Federer played his best and lost to Djoker .

Rafa will beat Djoker today most likely in 4 sets, and then take over as GOAT.

Roger will be remembered as the " PAPER GOAT " and someone will build small monument of him in Switzerland.

Posted by TennisFan2 09/12/2010 at 08:50 AM

The Golden Career Slam awaits! :-)

Posted by Kwaku 09/12/2010 at 09:12 AM

"Remember Hamburg 2008? Beijing 2008? Madrid 2009? All were epics of baseline brutality. And they all developed the same way. Djokovic started strong, using his ability to drill the ball down the line with power and accuracy to put Nadal on the defensive. But as the games wore on, Nadal wore Djokovic down..."
I remember the three of them. The scores were:
Hamburg 2008: 7-5, 2-6, 6-2
Beijing 2008: 6-4, 1-6, 6-4
Madrid 2009: 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(9)
So I'm not so sure if there's a common narrative with Nole starting strong (Rafa won 2 out of those 3 first sets, after all), but I remember Nole played great in general and agree that in the end Rafa wore Nole down.
I hope the same happens tomorrow. As you say, "while he[Nole]’ll be more fatigued, he’ll also come out on an emotional high after Saturday". Recovering from the emotional high can be as hard as recovering physically.

However, Nole is playing very consistent power baseline tennis, making very few errors. Rafa is usually the player with the lower UFE count, but tomorrow those stats may be reversed. I fear Nole a lot and give him as much as a 50% chances of winning the final. Specially if he wins the first set.

Posted by Amber 09/12/2010 at 09:14 AM

When looking at the head to head between Djokovic and Nadal
it's worth noting that none of Djokovic's wins have been
in the 5 set / GS format and the last two were indoors, late 2009.
I think Djokovic has the game to beat Nadal on hard court but
over 5 sets I give Nadal a definite edge.

Posted by arbiter 09/12/2010 at 09:16 AM

Mr. Tignor, just a day before, you claimed that Fish, Monfils just played bad matches, so that is why Novak is in the semis. Now, what happened to Federer? Do you care to elaborate? Again, did Federer drop his level too? Is it too much of a coincidence? How come that all the players drop their level against Novak?

You obviously have a very comfortable position. You can claim one thing one day, and something completely different the following day. Why would anybody take any word you say seriously? Your comments have less of a value than some of the visitors here, who are much more objective and careful in their analysis.

Both you and Mr. Bodo never explain your often very biased writing, obvious manipulation with facts.

The conclusion: you have a different agenda - maybe being objective is not your focus at all.

Posted by wilson75 09/12/2010 at 09:18 AM

Steve, I agree the second mens SF was the match of tournament and with Nadal and Djokovic in the final we have the prospect of seeing an even better match. Unfortunately, Super Saturday has ensured that the great final that we have the opportunity to see will not take place because the players don't have enough time to recover to make a true match of it. As I said before I'm hoping for a beatdown by Nadal so that the USTA and CBS can finally realise that Super Saturday is ruining the USO.

Posted by Kwaku 09/12/2010 at 09:19 AM

Rafa playing with high UFE counts is unnatural to him. When things get tight (and the haven't for him yet in this tourney), he will have strong temptations to revert to his old low-UFE game. But he will overcome them, because he is brave and intelligent. Running down all the balls Nole sends him right and left won't do the trick. Or it might (he no longer has to conserve energy ;)

Posted by Jurasick 09/12/2010 at 09:26 AM

Tennis is a game of match-ups. Federer looked awesome against Soderling, his serves were clicking and so were his ground strokes. But that was against Sod. Against Djokovic, those strengths evaporated because this was a different match-up, against a player who could do certain things far better than Sod. The Djoker returned serves incredibly well, thereby causing Fed's serves to be not as effective. He was able to bend and stretch for angled groundstrokes and return them with interest, so that didn't work well either. Fed would often have to go for the obvious corners when he had Djoker on the run, rather than trying to wrong foot him by going behind his back. He did that because Djokovic can react and adjust to those shots well whereas Sod, who is not as flexible or speedy (Sod the clod!) could be played that way. Like I had predicted in on my earlier posts, this one had all the makings of a Djokovic victory. However, given the strange, made-for-TV scheduling of the US Open, Nadal is likely to roll over Djoker unless it rains out today and they play again on Monday. Now that could make things interesting.

Posted by jerkstore 09/12/2010 at 09:29 AM

Just like in the final last year against Delpo, Fed's low first serve percentage was his undoing. Had he a better first serve percentage, he would have dictated more points and won both matches.

Posted by Frances 09/12/2010 at 09:29 AM

vamos rafa vamos !!!!!

Posted by GB 09/12/2010 at 09:36 AM

sooooo frazzled

Posted by roGER 09/12/2010 at 09:39 AM

I was shocked by how the Joker struggled against an off-form Roger Federer. I've never seen him serve as badly in a major match before, and yet he still managed to get to two match points against Djokovic, who was playing extremely well - the best I've seen him play for a couple of years.

The Joker's movement was incredible, as were his shots - it was one of those days when a lot of them landed on the lines.

The fifth set was a tribute to both men, and I have a strong feeling the final will be a dreadful anticlimax.

Raffa in three.

Posted by Christopher 09/12/2010 at 09:43 AM

"I-don’t-give-a-damn-if-Anna-Wintour-is-here, my-son-is-awesome T-shirts"

Best line of the tournament.

Posted by Frances 09/12/2010 at 09:47 AM

Steve Tignor delivers the best tennis qoutes ever!!!!!

Posted by Christopher 09/12/2010 at 10:09 AM

"Federer played his best and lost to Djoker."

Petewho-- If you can look at the stats for this match and say that "Federer played his best" than you have a special relationship with reality. Serving at 53% and 48/66 winners-to-UFE ration? That's not even his best this week.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 09/12/2010 at 10:13 AM

@petewho
'Rafa will win and take over as GOAT'
Good to know. That after winnng 9 sams he will be better than Sampras, Borg, Federer etc. Good to know.

Adulation is blind.

Posted by Eva 09/12/2010 at 10:20 AM

All those Rafa fans who arrogantly think Nadal will trash Nole today are so wrong it's almost ridiculous. Rafa hasn't got a chance, not on this speedy court, Nole has owned him the last three times they've played and those were a brutal massacre. Nole outplayed Federer for four sets yesterday making him look bad at times, going for every shot, being agressive and super precise. He had the guts to do it this time and he's not going away. Nole, you legend, your second grand slam is due. That's the best thing that could happen to tennis right now. Go Nole!

Posted by Srivatsan 09/12/2010 at 10:23 AM

Hi all

Am from India and match starts at 01.45 am India time. Ensured all my alarms work right.
Love to see rafa win in 5 sets because it end of day rafa will feel satisfied to have worked hard to win his golden grand slam.

Vamos Rafa

Posted by Prashant Sharma 09/12/2010 at 10:24 AM

@Eva
I hope that you are right :) I would love to see Djoker win....It depends on what kind of form Rafa has on the day. This is a very fast court...suits Djoker much better than Rafa.
I do hope the Djoker captures his second, and denies Rafa in the process...But then Rafa is on a roll here...:) Tough to bet against him...

Posted by Eva 09/12/2010 at 10:31 AM

Posted by ixvnyc 09/12/2010 at 02:42 AM

"enough joking around, let's talk some tennis.

when you keep hitting service winners all tournament, and you finally run into
the guy who keeps retuning them deep... the fact that your serve comes undone as the match goes on MOST CERTAINLY has something to do with that guy!

when you keep running forward and finishing guys off at the net all tournament, and you
finally run into the guy who can hit a passing shot, who can guess which way you send the volley... the fact that you become hesitant to attack MOST CERTAINLY has something to do with that guy!

when you keep building large leads over the guys who can't string a bunch of points without making an UFE, and then you finally run into the guy who just doesn't err much...
the fact that you start making errors while trying to figure out a new way to win the points that no longer just open themselves up for you MOST CERTAINLY has something to do with...

NOVAK DJOKOVIC!"

Wow, you sum it up all perfectly. Best post of the year!

Posted by Manly Norris 09/12/2010 at 10:54 AM

Federer obviously lost this match on his racquet. Annacone should have shouted down from the box to be more aggresive. I know Roger is internally motivated but it would have helped. Djokovic didn't do anything remarkable except to "hang in there", which is at least respectable even against a half-steam Federer. Federer must have developed a drinking problem lately, he looks nothing short of hungover during these matches.

My one big question: Why did Federer not play aggresively this match? Why did he develop this bad habit last year after beating Sampras's record? When he plays aggresively without self-consiousness of what is on the line, no one can beat him, and it is the most exciting, entertaining tennis to watch.

Posted by Bhai Mirzai 09/12/2010 at 11:03 AM

Before the match, based on the matches before this one, I had felt that Djokovic was playing really good and Federer was no so. I also said before he match yesterday that Fed's serve and his ground strokes had to click for him to move forward.

Then I watched the first set, and saw that he was missing first serves a little bit. He was not that precise. So he looked off. And Djokovic was better in the longer rallies. So this is how the match played out. Federer did not play his best and he needed that really to deserve a win.

My pick for the final is Djokovic. I think he has played well in all the matches I have seen. And it is not that hot this year.

Posted by bdscks 09/12/2010 at 11:13 AM

"Djokovic didn't do anything remarkable except to "hang in there".

how interesting. SKY commentator couldn't believe what he was seeing, repeating "this was courageous". please do not try to diminish Novak's role, powerful media has been doing the same thing for 2 years in a row now.

Posted by The Sun Also Rises 09/12/2010 at 11:16 AM

Federer has the most feeble fans.

Posted by Mike 09/12/2010 at 11:23 AM

Stack ..

A) Who says I don't believe Rod Laver to be the best of all time?

B) Today's game is much more physical than it was in Rod's day.

It's clear that Roger was a better player over all at 25 than he is at 29, as Rafa is no doubt better now than he will be at 29. It's called ... life.

Posted by Mike 09/12/2010 at 11:30 AM

Back to a worthwhile conversation, contrary to how great 'A' is, and how 'B' sucks ..

It's raining here in NJ ... is it raining @ Arthur Ashe?

I'm not buying that Djoko has the edge due to his past HC record against Rafa. The latter has really raised his HC game, and the now wet, humid conditions (if it's raining) should favor him even more. Nole needs his game and a lot of heart to win this one, IMHO. Should be a good one, if Nole isn't too gassed.

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