The best current rivalry in men's tennis will resume on Monday night when No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic takes on No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal for the 2013 U.S. Open title.
This is the 37th meeting between the two men. Though Nadal holds a 21-15 edge in the series, both men have had their periods of dominance over the other. From 2011 to early 2012 when Djokovic was near unbeatable, he won seven-straight matches against Nadal.
In a stretch from 2008-2009, Nadal took five in a row from Djokovic, and he has won five of the last six. Their career series has been epic, and fans can only hope for a classic final at Flushing Meadows on Monday. Djokovic will remain the No. 1 player in the world no matter the result, but the winner will deserve to be named the player of the year in men's tennis.
Both have captured one Grand Slam title this year. The U.S. Open final is set up as the climactic event to decide who holds sway in men's tennis in 2013.
Here's a deeper look at the Nadal-Djokovic rivalry by the numbers.
What Have You Done Lately?
Not only has Nadal won five of the last six meetings, he's taken two of the three matches the men have played this year. That includes taking a five-set masterpiece against Djokovic in the semifinals of the French Open, 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7(3) 9-7.
Clay is obviously Nadal's best surface, but his recent success against Djokovic and the rest of the men's circuit has come on all surfaces. Nadal is a whopping 60-3 in 2013 overall. This explains why even Djokovic is calling Nadal the best player in the world heading into Monday's final.
Djokovic told Piers Newberry of BBC Sports this on Monday: "With no doubt he's the best player in the moment this year."
When Rivals Battle For the Big Ones
Monday's final will mark the 11th time Nadal and Djokovic have met in a Grand Slam. Nadal has won seven of the first 10 meetings. In fact, the only wins Djokovic captured against Nadal in Grand Slam events came during his aforementioned seven-match win streak.
Djokovic defeated Nadal at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2011, and then again at the Australian Open in 2012. To further show the Djokovic's dominance during that period, only one of those matches even went five sets.
Their classic battle at the Aussie Open in 2012 lasted five hours and 53 minutes. Could another marathon-like battle be on tap Monday night?
Who is the King of New York?
Despite the greatness of both men and their plethora of head-to-head matches, they have only played at the U.S. Open twice. They split the first two matches, so Monday's meeting will give Djokovic or Nadal the edge in Flushing Meadows, at least until next year.
The U.S. Open is the last Grand Slam of the year. Winning the tournament gives a player a great opportunity to end the season on a high note. In addition to putting a stamp on 2013, a victory would also set up the victor for a confident beginning to next year.
How Much Does the Surface Matter?
Were this match on clay, it would likely be an open-and-shut case. Unless his opponent's name is Bjorn Borg, Nadal has a pretty significant edge over anyone he faces on a clay court surface. As we know, the U.S. Open is played on a hard court and Djokovic has gotten the better of the Spaniard on this surface.
In 13 hard court meetings, Djokovic has won nine times. However, when Rafa is right, he is a force on any surface. He's in one of those grooves that almost makes the playing surface irrelevant.
Djokovic should benefit from the day's rest between the final and his five-set close call against Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals.
He's shown the ability to dig deep more times than we can count, but I'm not sure any amount of reserve and resolve will be enough to stop Rafa right now. Nadal is my pick to win in four sets, though it is hard to doubt Djokovic. It should be a great show.
The final takes place on CBS at 5 p.m. ET. If you love tennis, you must tune in.
All stats from MatchStat.com
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