Men's US Open final: Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic renew long-standing rivalry
Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic will be meeting for a record 37th time when they lock horns in Monday's US Open final.
Last Updated: 08/09/13 8:42pm
The duo, who boast 18 Grand Slam titles between them, first met in the French Open at Roland Garros in 2006 and Monday's meeting takes them one past the 36 duels fought out by John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl.
Nadal leads the head-to-heads 21-15 and has won five of the last six meetings since Djokovic won their epic five-set five hours and 53 minutes Australian Open final in 2012.
The Spaniard is also 12-6 in front on the Grand Slam count but both men will be chasing only their second title at Flushing Meadows.
Nadal completed his career Grand Slam by beating Djokovic in four sets in the 2010 final but the Serb gained revenge 12 months later, also in four. This will be Djokovic's fourth straight US Open final and fifth total after he also lost to Andy Murray 12 months ago.
Sky Bet make Nadal the 8/13 favourite and Djokovic (5/4) believes that's a fair assessment given that the Spaniard has won nine titles in 2013, including an eighth French Open crown, and reeled off an incredible run of 21 wins and not a single defeat on hard courts.
"With no doubt he's the best player this year, no question," said Djokovic.
"Facing Nadal is the biggest challenge that you can have in our sport. He's the ultimate competitor. He's fighting for every ball and he's playing probably his best tennis ever on hard courts.
"He has got injuries, many injuries on this surface, but now he looks fit. But I have played him already here twice in the finals. I know what I need to do."
Nadal, who beat Djokovic in the semis of this year's French Open after trailing 4-2 in the decider, expects another mighty battle.
"I played against him a lot of times. Always we play very exciting matches," said Nadal.
"When you are involved in these kind of matches, you feel special. Even if I lost that final in Australia, I feel happy to be involved in that match," said Nadal, referring back to his epic 7-5, 4-6, 2-6, 7-6, 5-7 loss to Djokovic in the 2012 final in Melbourne
That victory means Djokovic has won the duo's last three Grand Slam finals not played on clay - Wimbledon and the US Open in 2011 and the 2012 Australian Open final.