So we got the match we wanted. World No. 1 Noval Djokovic against world No. 2, and defending champion, Rafael Nadal playing in the US Open Final on Monday (delayed to Monday for the fourth consecutive season due to weather conditions). It is also a repeat of the Wimbledon final played just over two months ago.
Novak’s victory in the semifinal against Roger Federer showed a significantly improved side of Djokovic since the past—and I’m referring to his mental fortitude, not his game. He was so mentally fragile in the previous couple years, you could never see him win a match of this stature after being down so badly.
I think this win is a huge boost to Novak’s career mentally. He will always look back at this clutch win and believe in himself that much more in tough situations. I had said in the past that last year’s US Open semifinal against Roger Federer was the turning point of Novak’s career, and I say it again.
Winning important matches like these against a great player takes you to a completely different level in terms of confidence from a career perspective, and not just the tournament.
On the other hand, Nadal who has had an indifferent summer, has raised his level just at the right time and is determined not to lose his sixth final in a row to Djokovic. It is going to be an intriguing match.
I think for Rafa, he is going to have to serve the daylights out just as he did last year. He has been serving big the last couple matches, more so than at any point this year. However, I still don’t think his serving is at quite the level of last year’s US Open. If Rafa’s serve is on par with last year, this final could be a real classic. But if he has just an okay serving day, I just don’t see Rafa being able to stop Novak.
Rafa’s mental strength will also be key, as that is what has gotten him through many a difficult moment in so many matches.
In the Wimbledon final, where Djokovic had completely outclassed Nadal, it was only Nadal’s mental toughness that afforded him to win a set off Djokovic, who was simply playing other-worldly tennis.
For Djokovic, keeping his fragile mental state in complete control throughout the match is the key. He will need all the patience, mental fortitude and determination against a mentally strong and tough opponent in Nadal.
If Nadal wins this one, he will still be tied at two majors apiece with Novak for the year. It just goes to show the greatness of Nadal ,that even with his struggles this summer, he has continued to play at such an incredibly high level this year.