An insider's preview of the U.S. Open men's final

The die is cast. The U.S. Open final will see Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic fighting for the trophy. This result confims what we've been thinking since the start of the summer.

Djokovic is in great shape. We've seen his level getting better and better, especially in Toronto where his match against Roger Federer was such an intense one and with a very high quality of tennis. After Toronto, he was, for me, the main outsider for the U.S. Open, being more impressive than Andy Murray cause he was looking so fit. Djokovic had prepared for the last Grand Slam of the year in a true champion manner. He lost some weight, not because of a special diet, but because of all the work he had done to get there in full shape. The Serbian is moving with an amazing ease on the court, even better than before. His serve is finally back after months of struggle due to some questionable technical changes. But it's his mindset -- his way of thinking -- his whole game that has improved. He's often dictating the point with his forehand now, the shot that was totally letting him down for the first half of the year. He needs this shot so much in order to succeed. His backhand, of course, is still his steadiest weapon but it's with his forehand that he's able to be aggressive and take chances. That's why he often turns around his backhand. His timing issues, which plagued him during a recent slump, are over. He takes the lead on points and isn't passive. The two match points he saved yesterday at 4-5 in the fifth set are the ultimate evidences.

Is Roger Federer injured?

Consider this, though: Djokovic is playing the best tennis of his life. And Federer was still close to victory. His serve fell down on him yesterday, with only 53% of first serves going in compared to the 64% he had during his battle against Robin Söderling (and that match was played in a very strong wind). With this issue, he was forced to play longer points, to really work on each point in order to win and so the enforced errors came in the way. This obvious difficulty to handle the battle on the line is just confirming what he showed during the previous rounds when he was saved by his serve. The serve finally let him down.

It's really surprising, viewing how much I was impressed by him in Toronto and Cincinnati. The great Federer was back at this time: very aggressive, dictating the game and being crushing with his groundstrokes. He seemed so motivated and his footwork was also in perfect shape for an offensive style. But in this U.S. Open, and even more in this semifinal, he was way slower, looked a bit tight and not low enough on his legs when it mattered. He missed a ton of forehands when the ball was coming right on him to the middle court and it's a real proof of his inability to move like he used to. He can't adjust with the ball. It also proves that the Swiss was trying to save his energy when it comes to running and moving.

Nadal: Stronger and stronger by the day

Many were worried about Nadal's level during the summer. Truth was that the Spaniard was simply lacking matches and hours on the court. We now know that if he wants to play his best tennis he needs to get lots of game play under his belt, in training but also in competition. In a Grand Slam, in a best of five sets, he has enough time to improve and get better. He was getting better and better by the day. In the final, he's going to be able to rely a lot on his serve, which has improved so much regarding percentage and speed. He's also going to take advantage again of his change of strategy: he has been clever enough to adjust to the surface by playing more flat shots to keep the speed going. And he hits as hard as ever.

Who will get the title?

What hopes does Djokovic have against Rafa? Not so much, juding by how impressive Nadal has been. The only sure thing is that Djokovic's main chance is his ability to put the pressure on Nadal. He'll have to serve great first and then be aggressive on every second serve of the Spaniard by not being afraid to attack him on his forehand. And then he could dictate the game. He will also have to come to the net as much as he can to end the points. Mainly he has to prevent Nadal from being the boss on the court. If the Serbian can display that kind of game we'll get a beautiful fight between two guys who are amazing competitors and who move like no one else on the court.

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