US Open 2015 Men's Final: Novak Djokovic V Roger Federer Preview and Prediction

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2015

US Open 2015 Men's Final: Novak Djokovic V Roger Federer Preview and Prediction

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    Novak Djokovic congratulates Roger Federer at the 2015 Western & Southern Open.
    Novak Djokovic congratulates Roger Federer at the 2015 Western & Southern Open.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will meet Sunday in the finals of the 2015 U.S. Open in the show tennis fans hoped they would see. 

    The No. 1 player on the ATP World Tour takes on the most popular player in tennis in an old rivalry that has a new feel to it. Call it a New York revival starring two legendary leading men. 

    Both breezed through their dressed rehearsals. Djokovic blew Marin Cilic off the court 6-0, 6-1, 6-2, and Federer took down Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals. With Djokovic and Federer making such quick work of their opponents, there's no clear favorite. 

    Although this will be their 42nd meeting, this Djokovic-Federer match feels different because after years on the tour, Federer appears to have more pep in his step. 

    When they met at the 2011 U.S. Open, Djokovic was the challenger and Federer the established star. With one massive forehand to save match point, Djokovic changed the complexity of this rivalry. The Djoker got away with one there. 

    It's been a close contest, with Djokovic having the edge in majors as of late. But perhaps in this revival rival, there's an updated script.  

    Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming show featuring Djokovic and Federer. 

Who Has the Historical Edge?

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    Djokovic and Federer shake hands after Wimbledon final.
    Djokovic and Federer shake hands after Wimbledon final.TOBY MELVILLE/Getty Images

    Federer leads the head-to-head 21-20. Djokovic has a slight edge 3-2, this year and has won three of the last four. Federer has a 2-1 edge on hard courts this year. 

    They last met a few weeks ago in the final of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. 

    In Cincinnati Federer defeated Djokovic 7-6, 6-3 with rather stunning ease. "He’s more aggressive here than in any other tournament because the surface and conditions allow him to play very fast,” Djokovic told Kevin Mitchell of the Guardian after his loss in Cincinnati.

    Indeed, Federer's two wins over Djokovic this year have been on fast hard courts. He also won in Dubai. 

How Djokovic Has Looked so Far

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    Novak Djokovic shows off his athleticism in the semifinals at the U.S. Open.
    Novak Djokovic shows off his athleticism in the semifinals at the U.S. Open.Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Djokovic destroyed Cilic in one hour and 25 minutes. People were still buzzing about Serena Williams' loss before they could settle in for Djokovic's comprehensive beatdown of the defending champion. 

    Speaking of Williams, Djokovic, if he wins the U.S.Open, would have come closer to the calendar-Slam than Williams because he lost in the finals at the French Open, instead of the semis.

    With the exception of a tricky quarterfinals match against Feliciano Lopez, Djokovic has looked every bit like the guy who has dominated the tour this year. 

    Against Lopez, Djokovic got off to a quick start by taking the first set 6-1. But then Lopez, who looked slugglish in the first set, made things interesting by taking the second set 6-3.

    The Spaniard hit 14 aces and caught Djokovic by surprise with the serve and volley. Still, Djokovic was always firmly in control of that match, as he's been all tournament. 

How Federer Has Looked so Far

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    Roger Federer greets friend and compatriot Stan Wawrinka after their semifinals match at the 2015 U.S. Open.
    Roger Federer greets friend and compatriot Stan Wawrinka after their semifinals match at the 2015 U.S. Open.Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Like Djokovic, Federer wasted little time in his semifinal match. He beat Wawrinka in one hour and 32 minutes. And with all due respect to Cilic, this was Wawrinka, a two-time Grand Slam champion with massive power.

    Following up a beatdown over Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals, Federer seemed to float around the court against Wawrinka. Seeing the ball well, Federer appeared to know where Wawrinka was going before he hit the ball. 

    Finally comfortable with his larger racket, Federer is playing with fresh legs. He's sprinting to the net to end points. 

    Federer has yet to drop a set. The man is cruising. 

Biggest X-Factors?

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    Federer hits an overhead shot against Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals at the U.S. Open.
    Federer hits an overhead shot against Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals at the U.S. Open.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    With Djokovic and Federer playing so well, the biggest X-factor will be which player can impose his game on the opponent the fastest.

    Setting the tempo will be crucial. Can Federer dictate the speedy pace he played against Wawrinka and Gasquet? Or will Djokovic lure Federer into the grind?

    The crowd will also be a factor. Djokovic is used to not being the crowd favorite. At Wimbledon the fans were solidly behind Federer. The New York crowd will be, too, and they will be louder. Djokovic has to avoid doing something that may antagonize fans. An electric crowd could energize Federer and give him just enough to push past Djokovic. 

Djokovic Will Win If...

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    Novak Djokovic stretches to make a play on the ball during his semifinals match.
    Novak Djokovic stretches to make a play on the ball during his semifinals match.Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    Djokovic needs to use his defensive skills to keep Federer backed up and on the baseline. He has to maintain pressure on Federer's serve and do whatever he can to extend rallies. Djokovic can't allow Federer to get into a rhythm like he did against Wawrinka and Gasquet. 

    The best way for Djokovic to neutralize Federer's aggressive play is to disrupt the serve. If Djokovic, the game's best returner, can jump out in front on Federer's service games, he can chip away at Federer's chip and charge. If Djokovic can force Federer to second guess his shots, that may be all the opening he needs to end Federer's magical run. 

Federer Will Win If...

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    Roger Federer after his win over Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals.
    Roger Federer after his win over Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Federer is bringing old-school tactics to his new style of play. It's working. To beat Djokovic, Federer will have to commit to this style without hesitation. A clever player, Djokovic will seek to throw Federer out of sorts. But it's Federer who can cause problems for Djokovic by staying the course and playing the game that got him to the finals. 

    Federer must continue to serve well and keep mixing it up. If he does, he'll have Djokovic on his heels, trying to figure out what the heck comes next.

    Of course Djokovic didn't get anchored at No. 1 by playing into an opponent's game plan. This is why no matter what happens, Federer must continue to play his game and force Djokovic to react. 

    If Federer can execute his shots against Djokovic the way he did against Wawrinka and Gasquet, he could go home with his first U.S. Open title since 2008

Prediciton

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    Roger Federer acknowledges the crowd after his semifinals win at the U.S. Open.
    Roger Federer acknowledges the crowd after his semifinals win at the U.S. Open.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Djokovic has a firm grip on the No. 1 ranking. He was two sets away from being in a position to win a calendar-year Grand Slam. He's beaten Federer in their last two meetings at a Grand Slam final. So of course Djokovic should win, right?

    Not so fast. He's facing a retooled Federer who is playing like someone without a care in the world. He's also facing Federer on hard courts. 

    Although Federer won most of his Slams at Wimbledon, on the grass, he's had far more success at the U.S. Open than Djokovic.

    Everyone remembers Djokovic's massive forehand in 2011 to save match point. But they forget about the tentative play and massive choke by Federer.

    Federer is playing anything but tentative these days. He's decisive. This time, he's the underdog with nothing to lose.

    In the latest New York revival, "The Return of the Maestro," Federer defeats Djokovic in four sets. 

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