US Open 2013

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an article on Rafa Nadal
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  US Open 2013: Renaissance man RafaelNadal arrives as the man to beat Rafael Nadal is fully fit and have won all 15 matches he has played on hardcourt this year, sowhy do we doubt him?    Share62          inShare0    Email     Kevin Mitchell in New York     The Observer ,Saturday 24 August 2013 23.00 BSTRafael Nadal practises on the courts at Flushing Meadows, where the US Open starts onMonday. Photograph: Anthony Behar/Rex  What a year-and-a-half  Rafael Nadal has had. If the splendid Spaniard can win the 2013 US Open, it will rank among the most heart-warming of sporting comebacks, and one we ought tohave seen coming.Watching Nadal crunch one wicked forehand after another past a desperate Roger Federer  in Cincinnati earlier this month was to witness two champions re-energised, the younger man prevailing to record his 21st win over the older in 31 meetings. It was not just a quarter-final of aMasters 1000 tournament, it was a reminder of how brilliant both of them had been for such along stretch and for our grateful enjoyment.Federer was magnificent one more time. Nadal was more magnificent. And here they are again, back in New York, where they have never met and where the Swiss has won five of his 17 slamfinals (the last of them five years ago, against Andy Murray), the man from Majorca just one of  his 12.If Federer is on a bit of a bounce, this is Nadal's third renaissance. The first followed his serialmauling by  Novak Djokovic in 2011, when it seemed the entire top 10 playing at once could not stop the Serb, who tortured Nadal on his favoured clay and everywhere else, beating him for fun.It had to end, and Nadal did just that where we thought he might, at Roland Garros last year,stopping Djokovic's bid for four slams in a row. Then Lukas Rosol impertinently put the greatman down at Wimbledon and Nadal hobbled into rehab for seven months, returning to shock usall with an astonishing run that began on the kind clay of South America, took him unbeatenthrough the unforgiving hardcourt of Indian Wells  –  where he beat Ernests Gulbis, Federer,Tomas Berdych and Juan Martín del Potro  –  and back to Europe. Surprisingly, he falteredagainst Djokovic in Monte Carlo, ending a decade's reign, before resuming dominance aroundhis red-dirt manor of Barcelona, Madrid and Rome. Paris fell to him again, his eighth title.When he lost at Wimbledon for the second year in a row, however   –  this time to Steve Darcis  –   eyebrows raised as sharply as his own, and we wondered if this was the finish line for him andhis tender knees. How much pain could he take on legs that were the foundation of his tennis,  that scurried like boxers' across the baseline, putting him in place to turn those iron wriststhrough his left-handed forehand and leave even the very best exasperated?It was not the end, though. Nadal came back once more to terrorise the contenders in Montrealthen Cincinnati. He stands now on the verge of more glory. To put himself in sight of the final,he will more than likely have to embarrass Federer for the 22nd time. Their pairing in thatquarter of the draw was more influential on the tournament than was Andy Murray's withDjokovic in their half. At least the Scot and the Serb can meet in the semis; Nadal and Federer will get their fight out of the way earlier, and a predicted win for Nadal will surely bring him to adangerous peak.Since returning to the American hardcourts in August, he has played without tape around hisknee, the scrapping of a literal and metaphorical bind. The lack of wrapping sends a message toeveryone in the field: Rafa is fully fit. There is no guarantee he will not bend to the strain of thegame, mind, but for now this is pretty much vintage Nadal on offer at Flushing Meadows over   the next fortnight. This Nadal cannot only win a second US Open, he can do it in the manner of the past, with snorting aggression and frightening commitment.When he was walking on to court for the final in Cincinnati against John Isner, he was ambushed by the TV courtside interviewer and his face was a picture of distraction, eyes blazing andimpatient for the fight. The answers were clipped, the win clinical.This year Nadal, supreme on clay, has guided his dodgy knees to 15 wins in 15 matches on thehardcourts, reckoned to be the surface to cut him down.But his history is gilded. As well as his career dominance over Federer, he leads Murray 13-5and Djokovic 21-15. He has a winning percentage against every single player in the top 30 and,in the top 100, all but Nikolay Davydenko among those he has played at least three times. Whydo we doubt him?
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