One more match to put a cap on a bizarre US Open. Maybe one event that for some can’t end soon enough.
We had the heat at the start of weeks one and two. The Mohammed Lahyani incident. Roger Federer’s issue with the humidity and air inside Ashe. Crazy late night finishes. Players excessively leaving the court – sometimes in the middle of sets. A make-it-up-as-you-go heat rule for the men.
There was Alize Cornet changing her shirt…on court! John Millman arguing he couldn’t play because his clothes were too wet.
What am I leaving out?
Oh yeah, on Friday Rafael Nadal becoming the first player to retire from a US Open men’s semifinal!
And then today’s women’s final, which I’ll get to in another post. For now, it’s the men’s final and maybe some sanity with two guys who shouldn’t surprise anyone for making it this far.
Novak Djokovic has been the best player the last few months, winning Wimbledon and taking Cincinnati to become the first man to sweep all nine Masters.
Del Potro’s been solid all year, winning Indian Wells, making the semifinals in Paris, the quarters at Wimbledon and he got a nice break with the Nadal injury.
So the final is set.
Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal
The head-to-head here is 14-4 for Djokovic and he’s never lost to Del Potro in a Slam (4-0) or at the US Open (2-0). Plus, he beat him three times in 2017.
Del Potro’s is playing much better than last year, but I think so too is Djokovic. And Novak’s won seven of their last eight losing only that Olympic match in Rio when things were already getting weird for Djokovic.
We know about Del Potro’s power game and he’ll be fresh and hungry and won’t be intimidated by the stage or the opponent. And he’ll have the crowd behind.
I think Djokovic will be at the ready also. He looked really good against Kei Nishikori Friday and with heat no longer a factor, I expect no less on Sunday.
While I picked Djokovic to win the title, I’ll root for Delpo, but I don’t see how he gets through this.
The number one problem is the Djokovic backhand to the Delpo backhand. If Novak’s backhand is working, the match is over.
Sure, Delpo’s getting better, but the backhand just isn’t a weapon like it was in 2009, and a class guy like Djokovic (or a Nadal), will pick that apart and find holes.
Why hit to Delpo’s forehand when you are in a safe zone going to the backhand? It’s simple, but a lot of players aren’t good enough to execute that gameplan and keep the ball away from the Delpo forehand.
“Big return and some good backhands,” Djokovic said of beating Del Potro.
“One of the keys of the match will be return, how well can I return, how many returns I can get back in play, but also try to have some depth in that return, and how accurately I can serve myself. I think that’s very important. When you play a big server like del Potro, you feel pressure also on your service games.
“He’s a smart player. He prepares his tactics well. He always relies, of course, on the first big serve and big forehand, one of the biggest forehands ever in the history of this game. Down the line, hit across, any angle. That’s the big weapon.”
So Novak’s plan is to get the return deep and hopefully away from the forehand, then work the point from there. Fortunately for Novak, he does have one of the best return games and one of the best backhands. So it’s no surprise it’s been a good matchup for the Serb.
That said, if Djokovic drops balls short, he’ll get pulverized. And he knows it.
For Delpo, it will be serve huge, attack with the forehand, attack the return off the forehand and hope Novak has an off day with the serve and backhand.
“It will be a difficult match because we are close friends,” Del Potro said of the final. “For sure we both wants to win. But Novak has won the Wimbledon already. He’s playing so good. He will be the favorite to win on Sunday.
“But I don’t know. When I played Roger nine years ago, he was the favorite to win, as well. I will try to make the surprise again.”
Surprise again? Then there’s that. Del Potro is 6-foot-6 and hits the ball as hard as anyone on this planet ever has. And if his game his humming, it’s just to avoid him at all costs. Unless you’re someone with the skills of Novak Djokovic.
The Pick: Djokovic in 4.
With all the craziness of the US Open, who knows what will happen.
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