Federer, Murray take aim at historic win
Tennis history will be made in the US Open men's final, but whether a familiar face or shocking upstart claim's the 1.5 million-dollar champion's prize remains to be seen.See Spl: US Open 2008Updated: Sep 08, 2008 13:30 IST
Tennis history will be made on Monday in the US Open men's final, but whether a familiar face or shocking upstart claim's the 1.5 million-dollar champion's prize remains to be seen.
Either Roger Federer will win his 13th Grand Slam title, one shy of the all-time record set by Pete Sampras, and fifth US Open in a row or Andy Murray will become the first British man to win a Slam title in the 40-year Open era.
Sixth seed Murray ousted world number one Rafael Nadal in a rain-interrupted semi-final that was completed Sunday while Swiss second seed Federer eliminated Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic on Saturday.
"He has loads of experience in these situations and it's something new for me," Murray said. "I know I'm going to have to play great to have a chance of winning but I've played well the last couple of weeks.
"I played well enough to beat the number one player in the world and I've beaten Roger. I have the tennis to compete with those guys. I just have to make sure to do it for three sets out of five rather than a set or two."
The first US Open since 1987 to be pushed into a Monday finish could see Federer win his 56 career title and 34th consecutive US Open match, having last lost to David Nalbandian in the fourth round in 2003.
"I like to call Wimbledon my second home I've had so much success there," Federer said. "But I could equal my five Wimbledons here so this is a big moment."
Even bigger for Federer, whose 17th Slam final puts him two shy of Ivan Lendl's record, is the chance to put himself on the brink of matching Sampras.
"The Pete thing is obviously very much alive and everything is possible but I would like to focus on the five in a row right now," Federer said. "That would be huge."
After losses to Nadal in the Wimbledon and French Open final, Federer enters his 13th final in his past 14 Slams with some people thinking he has slipped even as she bids for a ninth title in that span.
"We're all sort of wondering if he can break the record," said US Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe. "It's not going to get any easier for him in the next few years."
Part of the reason is Murray, who will rise to fourth in the new rankings, matching Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski for the top mark ever by a British man after becoming only the third British man in an Open-era Slam final.
Count Murray as a believer in Federer.
"It's an unbelievable run. I don't understand why everyone thinks he's not playing well. He has played unbelievably in the best tournaments and he's in the final for the fifth stright year here. It's a ridiculous run," Murray said.
"He's playing great. I just think the level of tennis has gotten better."
Murray has a 2-1 record against Federer, losing their first meeting at the 2005 Bangkok final but winning at Cincinnati in 2006 and in Dubai last March.
"I've played well against him in the past," Murray said. "I think a Slam final is different to the matches I've played against him before. He has won over 30 matches in a row here so he's going to be feeling confident going in."
Federer, 27 would be first man to win five Slams in a row at two different events. No one has won five US titles in a row since Bill Tilden in 1924. In the 40-year Open era, only Sampras and Jimmy Connors have won five US titles.
Federer's extra day of rest is no worry for Murray.
"Ideally you would want to be in his position. It's slightly better," Murray said. "But it's a Grand Slam final and I'm not going to let 24 hours of rest get in the way of giving 110 percent. That's not going to be the difference."
Murray sees Federer as an attack-oriented player while he prefers higher percentage returns rather than riskier moves to turn a quick advantage.
"He plays a more aggressive style. He will look to come forward a little bit more," Murray said. "When we're returning I play a bit more defensive. I try to put a lot of returns back whereas he maybe tries to go for a bit more."
Nadal gives the 21-year-old Scotsman a solid chance to beat Federer.
"Andy has his chances," Nadal said. "Federer is going to be the favorite but Andy is doing very well. He's a very good player. He can do it I think. He has very good talent. When he's playing well he can beat everyone."
No one knows Murray's threat potential better than Federer.
"It will be interesting to see how he handles it but I have a feeling he is a guy who plays well on the big occasions," Federer said. "That's why I need to be very, very careful how I play."