Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will meet for the 37th time in the U.S Open final, an Open Era record for most matches between two men. Nadal leads their head to head 21-15 and has won five of their last six meetings. However, Djokovic has beaten the Spaniard the last two times they faced off in hard-court Grand Slam finals, at the 2012 Australian Open and 2011 U.S. Open. Nadal beat Djokovic last month in the semifinals of the Montreal Masters in a third-set tiebreaker.
Djokovic said that facing Nadal is currently the biggest challenge in the sport and called him the ultimate competitor.
“He's fighting for every ball and he's playing probably the best tennis that he ever played on hard courts. He hasn't lost a match on hard court this year, and we all knew that over the course of last six, seven, eight years, hard court hasn't been his favorite surface. He has got injuries, many injuries on this surface, but now he looks fit. He had seven months off. He lost three matches this year. With no doubt he's the best player in the moment this year. So the way he's been playing he's very confident. I know how to play him. Hard court is the surface is my most successful surface. I have played him already here twice in the finals. I know what I need to do.”
Nadal added that he would rather play someone else but, ‘It is what it is. At the end, well, we have to be honest, no? We don't have to be stupid,” Nadal said with a laugh.
“Talking about a final, I want to play against a player that I have more chances to win. But I play against him. I played against him a lot of times. Always we played very exciting matches. When you are involved in these kind of matches, you feel special. And at the end, even if I lost that [nearly six hour] final in Australia, I feel happy to be involved in that match. Semifinals in Roland Garros this year [won by Nadal 9-7 in the fifth set] have been very emotional, too. Few weeks ago in Montreal have been good, very good level of tennis. Is good if both of us, we are playing at very good level so the match becomes great because we play long rallies, we bring our game to the limit situations, and becomes a very difficult match for both of us. I hope to be ready for that.”