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Zagoria | Federer-Nadal showdown at US Open would cap magical year

Rafael Nadal, of Spain, shakes hands with Roger Federer, of Switzerland, after the men's singles final at the Miami Open tennis tournament, Sunday, April 2, 2017, in Key Biscayne, Fla. Federer won 6-3, 6-4. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/AP photo

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have squared off five times at the French Open, four times at the Australian Open and three times at Wimbledon.

But the two arch-rivals have never met at the year’s final Grand Slam, the U.S. Open in New York.

Given that the two tennis superstars have already won the first three Grand Slam crowns in this throwback year of 2017, a meeting in New York later this summer — possibly to determine the No. 1 ranking — would be something uniquely special.

Federer on Sunday beat Marin Cilic for his 19th Grand Slam title, and second this year following the Australian Open, where he beat Nadal in five sets in the final. At the French Open, Nadal won his 15th major title, and 10th at Roland Garros.

Nadal, 31, is currently ranked No. 2 in the world behind Andy Murray, with Federer, who turns 36 next month, not far behind at No. 3.

A dream scenario would put the two men on opposite sides of the U.S. Open draw, with the potential of a mouth-watering final on Sept. 10. The U.S. Open draw is set for Aug. 25 at South Street Seaport, and the tournament runs Aug. 28-Sept. 10.

“There’s a lot of tennis to be played, and I don’t want to do a disservice to any of the other great athletes who will be competing in the men’s singles,” Chris Widmaier, the managing director of communications for the USTA, told FanRagSports.com. “That said, it would be an incredibly special moment if, for the first time ever, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal met in the men’s singles final.

“Roger would be going for his 20th Grand Slam and he would be doing so when we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Arthur Ashe Stadium. It would be historic on any number of any levels. Again, there’s a lot of great players out there. But it would be special. I think the New York crowd would love it; they would eat it up. And it would be a special moment in a historic year for our stadium.”

Novak Djokovic, last year’s U.S. Open runner-up to Federer’s Swiss countryman Stan Wawrinka, could miss the year’s final Slam, which would sap some star power from the event. He is reportedly considering shutting it down, and potential surgery, after retiring in the Wimbledon quarterfinals against Tomas Berdych with elbow trouble. After holding all four major titles following the 2016 French Open, Djokovic  failed to win his next five Slams.

Meantime, Nadal leads Federer 9-3 in Grand Slam matches, including 6-3 in finals. Yet, Federer has won their last four encounters, including the Australian Open final and two subsequent beatdowns en route to the titles in Indian Wells and Miami.

Federer has won the U.S. Open five times, but not since winning the last of five straight in 2008. Nadal won the year’s final Slam in 2010 and ’13.

They have come close to meeting in the tournament several times. From 2008-11, both Federer and Nadal reached the semifinals, but one of them always advanced to the final while the other lost.

“I think that you’re looking at two of the greatest players of all time,” Widmaier said. “It’s not lost on us that they’ve faced each other at the three other Slams and have yet to face off at the U.S. Open. It would be a crowning moment for the sport, a crowning moment for the U.S. Open. They’re such great ambassadors for the sport of tennis, such great competitors, that it would be super special if it were to occur.”

Now we all just need the tennis gods to put them on opposite sides of the draw, and Roger and Rafa to finally make it happen.

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Adam Zagoria is a basketball and tennis insider who has run ZAGSBLOG.com since 2006. He is a college basketball and tennis contributor for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the co-host of The Four Quarters Podcast via VSporto.com, which is available via iTunes. Zagoria is also a contributor to The New York Times. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.

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