Matchups We Most Want to See in a Men's Final of a 2015 Grand Slam

Will MedlockFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2015

Matchups We Most Want to See in a Men's Final of a 2015 Grand Slam

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Pundits and fans make their early-season calls and tips for the Grand Slams before a ball has even been struck. How often, though, do we consider the matchups we most want to see in the four biggest events of the calendar?

    Although Roger Federer continues to defy expectations and logic, he is coming toward the end of a sparkling career. One more faceoff against Rafael Nadal would be a treat for all sports fans.

    Grigor Dimitrov has had the enviable yet feared label of "Baby Federer" attached to him, as Sam Sheringham wrote for the BBC. Kei Nishikori, on the other hand, has arrived with less pressure and has already reached one Slam final.

    It would be refreshing to see a final contested by those outside the top four, with a potential clash between these two unexpected but intriguing nonetheless.

    The following slides will highlight four of the Slam finals that would provide the most fascinating stories of the year.

Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    It's hard to quantify the number of reasons why a player might let a tear slip after defeat. In the case of Roger Federer at Wimbledon last year, it's a little easier.

    At the time, there was almost a premature sense that defeat in the final was Federer's last hurrah. Novak Djokovic edged him out in five sets, leading to Federer's subtle post-match display of emotion.

    The man as cool as ice showed signs of melting.

    Whether it was the realisation that Slam No. 18 had slipped by or something more profound that only those in his bubble would appreciate, Federer was hurting.

    He would be denied another final showdown with Djokovic by injury at the World Tour Finals. Make no mistake, Federer isn't the only one who would welcome one more marathon with Djokovic before retirement.

    Tennis needs another clash between arguably the game's greatest player and the man who might surpass him. The beauty of it is it's still down to a flip of a coin as to who would win.

Andy Murray vs. Milos Raonic

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    If Milos Raonic is to crack tennis' top order he could do worse than make a Grand Slam final this year.

    Those sorts of occasions bring with them different pressures than with a normal final. So perhaps his Brisbane defeat to Roger Federer last month and the Paris Masters final loss to Novak Djokovic should be acknowledged for what they were.

    That being said, Masters events are as close to a Slam final as you're going to get. The next step is to make that elusive final, and a matchup with Andy Murray would be an ideal place to start.

    Murray's final experience seemed to count for little when he lost his concentration against Djokovic in Melbourne. It's an encouraging sign for the next player to meet him when the pressure is on.

    Raonic could be that man. However, he needs to prove he really is "the most dangerous outside contender of the lot," as Greg Rusedski wrote for The Telegraph at Wimbledon last year.

    Now is the time to make that first final, and beating the fourth-best player in the world seems a realistic and potentially defining marker. 

Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal

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    Andrew Brownbill/Associated Press

    Times have changed. It certainly isn't 2008 anymore. Rafa Nadal is no longer his assured self, and Roger Federer hasn't been able to recreate the form that saw him win Wimbledon five times in a row for some time.

    Yet it's a matchup that transcends the sport, and that's why there will be some who want just one more.

    It might be too demanding to expect another five-set masterclass. These days it even seems foolish to predict where Nadal's next injury will come from.

    However, another Slam showdown would potentially write the next thrilling chapter in an extraordinary rivalry. Nadal remains within three titles of Federer, and another shot at him at Roland Garros could earn him his sixth straight win over the Swiss.

    Neutrals might prefer an alternative setting to the comfort of clay for Nadal. It might not be 2008 anymore, but another Wimbledon final between the two warriors is nothing to be sniffed at.

Grigor Dimitrov vs. Kei Nishikori

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    Even hypothetical finals seem more enticing when contested by the world's top four. However, this next pairing might be a more realistic clash in two or three years' time.

    That isn't to say it won't stop them trying or audiences hoping for a surprise.

    Kei Nishikori made his first Slam final at Flushing Meadows last year, where he was comfortably swept aside by Marin Cilic. Michael Chang will have his man ready to rear his head again in the remaining three majors.

    Nishikori is capable of excellent tennis, dispatching Novak Djokovic at the U.S. Open to make the aforementioned final. Howard Bryant even wrote for ESPN.com that "a better serve stands between him and a major title."

    Nishikori also subjected Andy Murray to some devastating forehand shots at the World Tour Finals in December. Over the last couple of months he has shown he can handle big occasions, but that U.S. Open defeat will play on his mind if he doesn't reach another final this year.

    Grigor Dimitrov, on the other hand, is still awaiting his first shot at a Slam. He hasn't yet built on his excellent win over Murray at Wimbledon last year, but he seems capable of reaching a final if things fall his way.

    This might be a matchup for the distant future, but a taste of it wouldn't be a bad thing.

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