Novak Djokovic unexpectedly got upset (he retired with a shoulder injury, but was being beaten handily) by Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. It was a disappointing end to another outstanding season by Djoker, including wins at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
But one man’s loss is another man’s gain, or in this case, two people’s gain, namely Djokovic’s two biggest competitors in the current and historical standings.
Even more surprising, it opens up the possibility of Nadal and Federer playing in the U.S. Open for the first time ever. Yes, hard to believe that in their 15-year rivalry, which includes 40 matches, they’ve never squared off in New York. But this year, there’s a good chance it can happen.
Djokovich was on Federer’s side of the draw. With him gone, Federer has to beat Grigor Dimitrov, the 78th-ranked player in the world, and then the winner of Wawrinka v. Daniil Medvedev, the fifth-ranked player in the world, to make the final. Not easy, but doable.
Nadal, on the other side of the draw, has to win two matches to make the final, including his semifinal against No. 21 Diego Schwartzman. But the highest-seeded player he could face is No. 13 Gael Monfils. Again, doable.
Nadal and Federer already played twice this year in the majors, with each taking one victory — Nadal at the French in three sets, Federer at Wimbledon in four.
Nadal leads the overall series 24-16, but Federer’s record against Nadal on hard courts is 12-9, including six straight wins (one walkover). There’s still a lot of tennis to be played, but if Federer and Nadal meet in the finals, under the bright lights of NYC, it would be an epic battle and the first of its kind.