US Open Tennis 2013: Breaking Down Rafael Nadal-Novak Djokovic Final

Richard LangfordCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 23:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Rafael Nadal of Spain wait to go on stage during the ATP Heritage Celebration at The Waldorf=Astoria on August 23, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

In a final that many predicted and longed for, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will face off to determine the winner of the 2013 U.S. Open. 

Having the two longtime rivals meet in a title clash is the perfect way to end the major season. While Andy Murray has also had a fantastic 2013, Djokovic and Nadal have left little doubt as to who the year's two best players have been. 

As for the best player of the year, in my opinion, that is still up for grabs—although, Nadal has the edge. 

After missing the start of the year while recovering from knee issues, all Nadal has done is post a 53-3 record. Other than his shocking early exit at Wimbledon, the Spaniard has made the final in every event he has entered. 

Meanwhile, Djokovic has posted a more modest, but still insanely good, 44-8 record for the season. 

Nadal has a commanding lead in titles. He's claimed nine this year to Djokovic's three.

Nadal's marquee win came after the 12-time major winner beat Nole in a five-set thriller in the semifinals of the French Open: 

That title pulled Rafa even with Nole for the season in Grand Slam titles. Djokovic, a six-time Grand Slam champ, got his at the Australian Open before Nadal was back in action.

In past years, the closely contested battle at Roland Garros would suggest that Djokovic would have the upper hand at Flushing Meadows. Nadal is the most dominant clay-court player the world has ever seen. There is no doubt that historically it is his strongest surface. 

So, logic would suggest that if Djokovic can hang that close on clay, he should have a far easier time with Nadal on hardcourt. 

However, clay may no longer be Nadal's strongest surface. The 27-year-old has rolled through his hard-court matches with an unblemished record in 21 starts. It is his only unblemished surface for the year.

On top of that, he's looked as good as he has all season in his run at Flushing Meadows. 

It wasn't until Richard Gasquet broke Rafael Nadal in the fourth game of the second set in the semifinal that Nadal had lost a single service game all tournament. Still, Nadal earned the straight-set victory, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2. 

In all, Nadal has lost just one set at Flushing Meadows this year, and over his last two matches, he's lost just 16 games. 


Meanwhile, Djokovic had a much harder time advancing. 

Facing Stanislas Wawrinka in his semifinal, Djokovic needed an excess of four hours to earn the win, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

While this would suggest Djokovic will be a little more fatigued for Monday's final, Nole doesn't get fatigued; he gets better. Should he lose, it won't be his legs that fail him, and I say that knowing this is going to be another long duel. 

Neither player will be able to surprise their opponent. They have faced off 36 times, and no rivalry has been contested more times in the Open era than Djokovic-Nadal. 

Nadal has the lead at 21-15, and that includes a 7-3 edge in majors. However, Djokovic has taken his game to the next level over the last few years and has proven he is far closer to Nadal than that record indicates. 

Also, Djokovic has owned this rivalry on the hard court—he has an 11-6 edge on the surface.

However, that hard-court dominance hasn't extended to Flushing Meadows. This is the third time the pair has met in the final of the U.S. Open—each has won one. 

Now that we've reviewed the pertinent numbers, throw them out the window.

It doesn't matter. Both of these talented men are playing fabulous tennis, and it will come down to which one has the hotter hand that day. I can't wait to watch it unfold.