Mats' Musings: Federer favored but Nadal still a threat

Editor's note: Former world No. 1 and seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander is writing exclusively for Yahoo! Sports during the course of the U.S. Open. The 1988 U.S. Open champ will break down who's hot and who's not, offering his thoughts courtesy of Lacoste.

Roger Federer's season has been all about reaching milestones and breaking records, but that doesn't mean he has conquered all his mental demons.

By winning the French and Wimbledon titles, Federer climbed back to world No. 1, broke Pete Sampras' Grand Slam record and is seeking a sixth straight U.S. Open title.

However, the Swiss must still feel like he has some unfinished business with arch rival Rafael Nadal.

Nadal has emerged as the winner five of the seven times these men have met in a Slam final, including the last three, with the most recent coming at the Australian Open in January.

And while Nadal's injury problems allowed Federer to put together a dream run this summer, it will be fascinating to see what happens if the head-to-head continues here in New York.

I still give Nadal the upper hand if the two men meet in the championship game, given that he always seems to find a way to win when times are tough. The hard bit for Nadal will be getting to the final, keeping himself in good enough condition to survive seven matches over the course of the next two weeks.

Federer is one of the greatest players who have ever lived, yet he does appear to have a mental block against Nadal - especially when it comes to finals.

That is why I feel that the draw, which put Nadal in the same half as No. 2 seed Andy Murray, is actually a disadvantage to Federer.

If he had played Nadal on Super Saturday in the semifinal, I would like his chances. The unique finals atmosphere though, with all that day's focus intensified on one match, would give the advantage to the Spaniard, who looks immune to any kind of pressure.

Federer must still be considered the overall favorite and there is a good chance that Nadal will be knocked out before they have a chance to square off in the final.

Some will be surprised that I have Novak Djokovic as my second favorite, but Djokovic looks strong and confident and wants to show he is capable of beating the best when it really counts.

He would have a big opportunity to beat Federer if they met in a semi, or to beat Nadal in the final. But if he were to play Murray, the defensive specialist, it would be a different kind of game altogether.

That is why the men's game is so interesting just now, with the clash of styles adding an extra element to the battle for the title.

Check back over the weekend for my thoughts and analysis ahead of Week 2 of the U.S. Open. Below I have listed my favorites for the title and why they have a chance of glory in New York.


1. Roger Federer: Still the man to beat but he won't have it all his own way.

2. Novak Djokovic: Has a point to prove and the perfect game for these conditions.

3. Andy Murray: Might lack the firepower to win seven best-of-five setters.

4. Andy Roddick: Needs to continue Wimbledon form; could be a title threat.

5. Rafael Nadal: Would be the favorite to beat Federer in the final, but the hard part is getting there.

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