Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tennis Tuesday: Rafael Nadal Favorite For 2013 US Open!?

Rafael Nadal won the 2013 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on Sunday by defeating John Isner 7-6(8) 7-6(3), extending his hard court winning streak to 15-0 and establishing his status as the favorite to win the 2013 US Open which starts next Monday. Nadal has now won an astonishing five ATP Masters series tournaments this year (Indian Wells, Rome, Madrid, Montreal and Cincinnati.)

Nadal defeated Roger Federer in one of the better hard court tussles in the 31st match in their rivalry on Friday evening 5-7 6-4 6-3. In his run on hard courts this year he has beaten World #1 Novak Djokovic, Federer (twice!), Juan Martin del Potro (in the Indian Wells final) and Tomas Berdych (twice: Indian Wells semifinal and Cincinnati semifinal) but surprisingly, he has not had to face 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray. Murray is the winner of the one ATP Masters Series 1000 that Nadal did not play (and therefor did not win) and has to be considered the second favorite to win the last major tournament of the year.

Murray and Nadal have not played each other since 2011 so it will be very interesting to see this year's draw and where they could potentially meet. With his amazing 50-3 record for the year Nadal has now risen to World #2 and will almost certainly become the year end #1 and would grab the top spot  from Djokovic if he does significantly better in the US Open than last year's finalist. With Murray seeded at #3 the two could only either meet in the semifinal or final. Nadal has beaten Murray in the semifinals of majors four times (including three times in 2011!) but the one time Murray won was in the semifinals of the US Open (way back in 2008) and although Nadal leads their overall head-to-head 13-5, all five of Murray's wins over Nadal have come on hard courts.

There is no question that Nadal is the most successful hard court player of the year so far. He has won the US Open series and is eligible for a $1 million bonus prize if he wins the 2013 US Open. The only player who has done that since the US Open series has been in existence is Federer (in 2007). Additionally, Nadal has achieved the rare double ATP Canadian Masters-ATP Cincinnati Masters. The last person who did that (Andy Roddick in 2003) went on to win the Open, and every one who has done so has reached the final of the US hard court major (Andre Agassi and Patrick Rafter), so history is also on Nadal's side as the favorite to win his 2nd US Open title this year.

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