US Open 2018 Final: Preview, Prediction, Head-to-Head, What the players said
Arthur Ashe stadium is all set to witness an amazing spectacle on Sunday when two resurgent superstars compete against each other to become the champion of US Open 2018. On one hand, there is two-time winner Novak Djokovic, who missed the tournament last year due to an elbow injury which eventually required surgery. On the other end of the court will be his good friend, 2009 US Open champion, Juan Martin Del Potro, who once thought of retiring from the sport due to his problematic wrist injury.
No matter how tough the resurgence was, Djokovic, having already won Wimbledon this year is eyeing his 3rd US Open title (14th Grand Slam Overall, which will take him to the 3rd spot along with Pete Sampras on the all-time list). Del Potro, on the other hand, is playing the best tennis of his life had entered the tournament as World No. 3.
What the players said before the final
Del Potro expressed his satisfaction and joy with the kind of tennis he has been playing at the moment putting behind the bad days and injury scare as he told the media:
The worst moment was in 2015 when I was close to quitting this sport because I couldn't find a way to fix my wrist problems. I had been suffering a lot. I got depressed for a couple of months also. I didn't get the chance to feel better with myself, to do this again. That was the bad moment for me.
But I think that is completely in the past, and now I'm… looking forward for the future. I didn't expect to get these kinds of emotions playing tennis again. Reaching finals, winning titles, having my highest ranking ever in this moment, everything is almost perfect.”
Djokovic also expressed his delight with the kind of tennis the 29-year-old Argentine has been playing and termed him as a big match player.
I personally like [Del Potro] very much, not just as a player but as a person. He is a dear friend, someone that I respect a lot. We all felt for his struggles with injuries that kept him away from the Tour for two, three years.
But he was always a Top 5 player in the eyes, I think, of everyone. Even when he dropped his ranking and started to work his way up, we all knew that he has a capacity and a quality to get to the point where he is at the moment. It was just a matter of time... He's a big-match player. He's a Grand Slam winner. He's playing the tennis of his life, without a doubt, in the past 15 months.
Head to Head
Thirteen-time Grand Slam winner, Djokovic clearly holds the edge over the big-hitting Argentine as he leads the pair's head to head 14-4. However, Del Potro does know what it takes to beat the Serb as he showed while denying Djokovic an Olympic medal, not just once but twice.
This will be the pair's first meeting in 2018 having last met in the Quarterfinal of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Rome where Djokovic easily prevailed with a score of 6-1, 6-4. However, the Serb will be wary of the challenge a fully fit Del Potro will present this time around with his added armoury which includes a much more reliable backhand in addition to his ferocious forehand and big serves.
Key to Win the Match
Del Potro owns one of the most ferocious forehands in the Men's Circuit and Djokovic is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, returner in the game. Along with his big forehand, Del Potro brings his lethal service to the table too, having blasted 68 aces in the tournament so far (5th highest in this year's tournament) and winning 82% points off his 1st serve.
However, Novak Djokovic's return will be crucial in deciding the fate of the match as he has won the most number of 1st serve receiving points in this year's tournament. Another factor that will be a decider in today's match will be how effective Djokovic can be on his own serve.
Djokovic in his press conference rightly highlighted,
" One of the keys of the match will be return, how well can I return, how many returns I can get back in play, but [I will] also try to have some depth in that return, and how accurately I can serve myself. I think that's very important. When you play a big server like del Potro, you feel pressure also on your service games."
Prediction for the match
Djokovic is clearly the favourite to win the tournament with Del Potro being in a similar situation as he was in 9 years ago when he won his 1st & only (till date) Grand Slam after beating Rafa and Federer back-to-back.
With the extra rest due to shortened Semifinal owing to Nadal's injury and added incentive of Qualification for Nitto ATP World Tour Finals, I expect Del Potro to be ready to give Novak a run for his money and take the match to the decider. However, the kind of tennis Novak has been playing since Wimbledon, I expect him to prevail in the decider.
Score Prediction: 7-5 4-6 6-4 6-7 7-5 in favour of Novak Djokovic