After a 17-year roller coaster, the glittering and sometimes controversial career of Maria Sharapova has come to an end.
It has been an eventful two weeks at the US Open and the year’s final Grand Slam tournament will culminate in the world’s top two men meeting in the championship match.
For the third time in four years, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will contest the championship match inside the world’s largest Grand Slam tennis venue, Arthur Ashe Stadium. The pair have met previously twice, splitting the results, so one thing is for certain – there will be a first-time dual US Open champion.
But who will it be?
Here is the full preview of what is expected to be an intriguing men’s final.
Novak Djokovic (1) versus Rafael Nadal (2)
Head-to-head: Nadal 21-15
Last meeting: Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), semi-finals, 2013 Rogers Cup.
Road to the final
Round 1: defeated Ricardas Berankis 6-1, 6-2, 6-2
Round 2: defeated Benjamin Becker 7-6 (7-2), 6-2, 6-2
Round 3: defeated Joao Sousa 6-0, 6-2, 6-2
Round 4: defeated Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-finals: defeated Mikhail Youzhny (21) 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0
Semi-finals: defeated Stanislas Wawrinka (9) 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
US Open history
Best result: Won (2011)
Past five: Finalist (2012), won (2011), finalist (2010), semi-finals (2009, 2008)
Road to the final
Round 1: defeated Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
Round 2: defeated Rogerio Dutra da Silva 6-2, 6-1, 6-0
Round 3: defeated Ivan Dodig 6-4, 6-3, 6-3
Round 4: defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber (22) 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-3, 6-1
Quarter-finals: defeated Tommy Robredo (19) 6-0, 6-2, 6-2
Semi-finals: defeated Richard Gasquet (8) 6-4, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2
US Open history
Best result: Won (2010)
Past five: Did not play (2012), finalist (2011), won (2010), semi-finals (2009, 2008)
After five Grand Slam tournaments without a final between these two men, finally order will be restored to the top of the men’s game.
It’s the world number one, whose standards have dropped of late this season, against the world number two, in the hottest form of his life having scooped nine titles and only lost three times during the year.
Novak Djokovic is into his third Grand Slam final of the year, his fourth consecutive US Open (and fifth overall) and his 12th overall, and will have his work cut out trying to claim a lucky seventh Grand Slam title.
He has belied his ordinary season to turn on his customary best Grand Slam form, and it’s this form that could land him a second US Open title to follow his success in 2011.
Standing in the way of the Djoker and a second US Open title is the red-hot Rafael Nadal, with an undefeated hard-court record dating back to Indian Wells last year.
Nadal entered the US Open with a very good chance of reclaiming the world number one ranking. But with Djokovic beating Wawrinka in the semi-finals, any chances of that happening may have to wait until the indoor swing next month.
Nevertheless, Nadal is playing the best tennis of his life – he romped through his early rounds before losing serve for the first time this tournament in the semi-finals against Richard Gasquet.
The Spaniard has also dropped just the one set all tournament, that coming in a tiebreak against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the fourth round. His form is a scary prospect for Djokovic, whose Australian Open title earlier this year remains his most recent Grand Slam title.
Can Nadal continue his rampaging hot form into the final, or will Novak Djokovic win a second title at his expense?
Stats that matter
* This will be the sixth Grand Slam final between the two players, but the first since last year’s epic Australian Open final, which Djokovic won 7-5 in the final set in the early hours of the morning. Djokovic leads Nadal 3-2 in this category.
* This is Nadal’s third straight US Open final from as many outings (he did not play last year due to injury), while this is Djokovic’s fourth straight final. Both streaks started with their meeting in the 2010 final, won by Nadal.
* This is their first meeting at a hard court Grand Slam tournament since the aforementioned 2012 Australian Open final.
* Djokovic’s most recent win against Nadal anywhere was a very significant one – it came on the clay courts of Monte Carlo where Nadal was the eight-time defending champion.
* The last two matches between Djokovic and Nadal have gone down to the wire – with Nadal winning both (9-7 in the final set in the semi-finals of the French Open and in a final set tiebreak in the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup).
* With the top two women contesting the final, this is the first Grand Slam tournament since the 2000 Australian Open in which both the men’s and women’s final have pitted the world’s top two players against each other.
* For the second consecutive Grand Slam tournament, and for the second time in three US Open tournaments, Djokovic will enter the championship match off the back of a five-set semi-final victory.
Nadal might be the hottest player on form at the moment and it seems the only thing that can stop him from triumphing at Flushing Meadows for a second time is complacency or choking on the big stage. This is the Spaniard’s title to lose.
Djokovic, on the other hand, is the only genuine contender to Nadal here. He will also be very hungry to add a second US Open title after finishing on the wrong side of history when he lost to Andy Murray in a dramatic five-set championship match last year.
Nadal deserves to be the favourite – his form on hard courts this season says it all. But he won’t have it all his way, as I still expect Djokovic to challenge him hard.
Rafael Nadal in five sets.