Nadal grabs favorite tag for U.S. Open

Aug. 25, 2013 at 11:34 AM
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NEW YORK, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Andy Murray is the defending champion and Novak Djokovic is No. 1 in the world but the attention in men's singles for the U.S. Open is on Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic has been in the last three U.S. Open finals, losing to Nadal in 2010, beating Nadal in 2011 and losing to Murray in 2012. That was Murray's first Grand Slam title. He's since added Wimbledon (again beating Djokovic) to his list of accomplishments.

Murray and Djokovic have met in three of the last four Grand Slam finals. However, that can't happen this time in New York as Nadal has moved past Murray for the No. 2 world ranking and Murray and Djokovic were placed in the same half of the game. Their potential meeting would be in the semifinals.

Djokovic is 44-8 this year with three titles and the runner-up showing at Wimbledon. Murray is 37-7, with four wins and the Australian Open finals appearance.

But Nadal is having the best year. He missed the second half of 2012 and the 2013 Australian Open (won by Djokovic over Murray) because of a knee injury but is 53-3 with nine championships and two seconds in 12 tournaments since then.

The highest other seeded player in his half of the draw is No. 4 David Ferrer, against whom Nadal is 20-4 all-time and 4-0 this year. In Nadal's quarter is seventh-seeded Roger Federer, seeking a sixth U.S. Open title. But Federer is having an off year, winning a tournament but only going 32-11 overall. Nadal is 21-10 against Federer.

Nadal has played twice since a stunning first-round loss at Wimbledon (to No. 135-ranked Steve Darcis). He sat out the next five weeks, giving his knee rest and recovery time. Nadal then dropped just three sets in winning Masters-lever tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati. He is the player to beat.

The strength of the top three players -- Djokovic, Nadal and Murray -- makes the rest of the field -- even the venerable Federer -- long shots to win the men's singles final Sept. 9.

However, some players to consider are Ferrer, if he can escape Nadal's hold over him, and Juan Martin del Potro, who is in the Djokovic-Murray half of the draw but has as many U.S. Open titles as either of them, having won in 2009.

The 2013 U.S. Open, the 133rd edition of the tournament first played in 1881 when Richard Sears beat William Glyn for the title, begins Monday.

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