Rafael Nadal ESP (1) vs. Novak Djokovic SRB (3).
This unexpected final between the 24-year-old World #1 and the 23-year-old World #3 (the once and future World #2) is a harbinger of the future of tennis. It was set up by Djokovic's ability to defeat 290year-old Roger Federer for the first time at the US Open, 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 7-5, in one of the most tension-filled matches of the year. Much will be said about the passing of the guard at the top of the tennis heap with Federer's absence in a US Open final for the first time since 2003(!), when Andy Roddick won his sole major title. The same thing could have been (and was, by some) said last year when 21-year-old, 6'5" Juan Martin del Potro outlasted Federer last year.
But what about this year? Rafael Nadal is playing the best tennis anyone has ever seen him play on a hard court. He has held serve 79 of 81 times. He is serving regularly in the 130 mph zone, volleying impressively and possesses blistering shots on both the forehand and backhand wings. Oh, and he plays every single point like it is match point but if he loses it, he has a preternatural ability to ignore what just happened and play the next point in exactly the same way, like it's his last point on earth. And he can maintain that intensity for hours.
Who can beat him? Novak Djokovic can, and has. Although Nadal has a 14-7 edge over the Serbian in career matchups (and exactly the same 14-7 career edge over Federer), Djokovic has a 7-3 edge on hard courts. Nadal has 4-0 edge in finals (on hard, clay and grass surfaces) and 3-0 edge in grand slam matches (all played in Paris). However, although the Serbian has already lost and won a major final, he can not match Nadal's experience of having won 8 and lost 2. Although this will be Rafa's first New York final (a place I honestly never thought he would ever get to), it is Novak's second. However, it is exceedingly unlikely Novak can beat Roger Federer one day and Rafael Nadal the next day. (Who does he think he is, Juan Martin del Potro?)
MadProfessah's prediction: Nadal.