Re­born stars eye NY swan song

Could Nadal, Fed­erer meet at the US Open for the 1st time?

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE -

Their ri­valry has stretched 13 years and 37 matches but Rafael Nadal and Roger Fed­erer have never met at the US Open, a stag­ger­ing anom­aly which seems cer­tain to be cor­rected at 2017’s con­clud­ing Grand Slam.

Nadal, back on top of the world rankings for the first time in three years, is a two-time win­ner in New York, his 2010 and 2013 ti­tles form­ing part of his 15-Slam port­fo­lio which was em­bel­lished by a record 10th French Open in June.

Fed­erer, the five-time US cham­pion from 2004 to 2008, is bid­ding for a 20th ma­jor and third of the year after cap­tur­ing the Aus­tralian Open and Wim­ble­don ti­tles.

Vic­tory in the men’s fi­nal on Septem­ber 10 would also make the 36-year-old the old­est US Open cham­pion of the mod­ern era and old­est over­all since Bill Tilden in 1929.

The path to the ti­tle for Nadal and Fed­erer has been eased by the re­moval of two-time cham­pion No­vak Djokovic, the for­mer world No.1 who has shut down his sea­son to re­cover from an el­bow in­jury.

Also out of the way is de­fend­ing cham­pion Stan Wawrinka, an­other long-term ca­su­alty who is fac­ing knee surgery.

Add into the mix the on­go­ing hip prob­lems of 2012 cham­pion Andy Mur­ray, and all the in­di­ca­tions point to a tour­na­ment where the sport’s two most durable war­riors are likely to be among the last men stand­ing.

Not that they are get­ting car­ried away by their prospects.

Nadal, 31, heads to New York on the back of a quar­ter­fi­nal loss to Nick Kyr­gios in Cincin­nati and a Montreal last-16 de­feat to Cana­dian teenager De­nis Shapo­valov.

“New York is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent event,” said Nadal, who has not got past the fourth round at the US Open since 2013.

“Dif­fer­ent ball and in the his­tory of my ca­reer in New York I played much bet­ter.

“I be­lieve that I did the things well enough dur­ing the whole year to be ready to com­pete at the high­est level in New York.”

‘Com­pletely in­sane’

Fed­erer, mean­while, is look­ing to move beyond Pete Sam­pras and Jimmy Con­nors by claim­ing a sixth US Open and reach a first fi­nal in the city since his sen­sa­tional 2009 loss to Juan Martin del Potro.

His record-blaz­ing eighth Wim­ble­don ti­tle in July was fol­lowed by a Montreal fi­nal de­feat to Alexan­der Zverev and a pullout from Cincin­nati with a back in­jury.

But with a 2017 record of five ti­tles, 35 match wins and just three losses, the ever­green Swiss re­mains the sen­ti­men­tal fa­vorite.

“Win­ning my third of the year, my 20th Grand Slam, would be com­pletely in­sane. I just hope I’m go­ing to be 100 per­cent ready when the mo­ment arises,” said Fed­erer who missed the 2016 US Open to rest a knee in­jury.

When Mur­ray stunned Djokovic to win the 2012 ti­tle, he be­came the first Bri­tish man to lift a Slam sin­gles ti­tle in 76 years. A hip in­jury con­trib­uted to a quar­ter­fi­nal exit at Wim­ble­don and he has been side­lined since, although he made the trip to New York and ex­pects to play.

With Djokovic, Wawrinka, as well as 2014 run­ner-up Kei Nishikori out of ac­tion, the tour­na­ment should also present the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for the widely touted “Next­Gen” to step up.

Alexan­der Zverev, the world No.6, downed Fed­erer for the Montreal ti­tle but slumped first time out in Cincin­nati to US teenager Frances Ti­afoe.

Zverev has never got beyond the fourth round of a Slam and was a sec­ond-round loser in New York in 2016.

Kyr­gios, the run­ner-up in Cincin­nati, made the quar­ter­fi­nals at the Aus­tralian Open in 2015 and Wim­ble­don in 2014 but his US Open best is a run to the third round.

World No.8 Do­minic Thiem, a semi­fi­nal­ist at Roland Gar­ros in 2016 and 2017, has never got beyond the last 16 in New York.

Two fans wear­ing a Roger Fed­erer (left) and a Rafael Nadal mask re­spec­tively pose for pho­tos at Wim­ble­don on July 10.

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