So it’s Djokovic and Nadal to battle it out in what will be their sixth final meeting of the year. 

The ‘Djoker’ has won the previous five battles, but as they play for the final Slam of the year, both men will be all too aware that he who laughs last, laughs loudest.

Rafeal NadalNovak Djokovic 

Having reached his third Slam final of the year, the Serb may be a little disappointed by his form so far. He has been solid and reliable but at times he seems to have struggled to really slip into gear and get going in matches. 

Saturday’s semi-final with Federer was a perfect example of this. The World No.1 seemed to be playing well within himself in the first set and when Federer suddenly stepped it up in the second, he found himself two sets down and on his way out.

To come back from two sets down against Federer, was impressive enough, but to save two match points, on Federer’s serve, for the second year in succession, was bordering on the miraculous. 

Djokovic will know he is lucky to be in this final. And whilst the story of the stunning forehand return on match point and the playing to the crowd afterwards, is now being painted as Serbian genius, the truth is that Djokovic was riled by the crowd’s support for Federer and lashed out probably more in frustration and anger, than bravery and hope. 

Rafael Nadal 

Nadal didn’t quite look himself here in the early stages and coming off the back of a fairly miserable summer in the Master’s events that was probably to be expected. However, since his sudden bout of press conference cramp at the end of the first week, the Spaniard has loosened up and with each passing match has looked more and more the man who swept all aside to claim the Title here in 2010. 

Andy Murray probably played one of his better matches against Nadal on Saturday evening, yet was still powered off the court convincingly by the World No.2.

I get the impression that Rafa has been itching for a Final meeting, here in New York, since the second he lost his Wimbledon crown to the Serb in June. 

Mind games 

Whilst these two men have met in five Tour finals so far in 2011 and Djokovic has won them all, this one is different. This is the first time Djokovic has come in as the tennis handicapper’s favourite and the first time he will be meeting Nadal as World No.1.

That is going to put extra pressure on Djokovic right from the start and Nadal may feel a little looser, playing in the final of a Grand Slam, where he does not start as a favourite, for the first time in many years. 

The serve 

The serve is going to be vital in this match. In 2010 Nadal turned up at this event with such an improved serve, nobody, including Djokovic, could get near him. In truth Rafa has struggled to consistently bring that serve to his matches in 2011 and indeed in their fist meeting of the year, at Indian Wells in March, a complete breakdown of the Nadal serve in the second set, lost him that match and handed Djokovic the initiative which he has kept ever since.

In contrast, the Djokovic serve has been back to its best in 2011 after letting him down a lot in the previous 12 months.

The game plans 

Novak Djokovic knows he just needs to carry on doing what has worked so successfully for him against Nadal this year. He can rely on his serve and knows that his incredible defence has so far soaked up everything the Spaniard has to offer. Djokovic can consistently put the ball deep into the court, frequently finding the baseline, and it’s from this position the errors start to come from the Nadal racquet. 

Rafa Nadal has not been sitting idly since Wimbledon, waiting for this match to come along. Four final defeats in succession would have ruffled the Spaniard but it was that crushing and comprehensive dismissal at Wimbledon which will have forced Nadal back to the drawing board. 

You can almost guarantee there’ll be a surprise from Rafa on Monday afternoon in New York. It could be the return of the huge serve. We may see him trying to end points earlier or really attack Djokovic before rallies get going, trying to force the errors from the Serb. It’s strange to think of Nadal being the one more likely to loose a rally the longer it goes on, but that’s now what he’s faced with when he plays Djokovic. He’ll need to bring something different to the table this time. 

Verdict 

Having both backed Djokovic at the start of this event and watched him defeat Nadal on five occasions already this year, in tennis betting it’s very difficult to see past another victory for the Serb.

Djokovic has the edge mentally, on his serve, in long rallies and defensively. You never say never with Rafa Nadal, but he will need to play the match of his life if he’s to successfully defend his US Open Title here on Monday night. 

Tips 

Novak Djokovic to win the match – 4/6 

Djokovic to win 3-0 – 10/3 – William Hill

Most Double Faults – Rafa Nadal at tennis odds of 8/13