Nadal: "Djokovic is obviously the favorite for the final"
Spaniard looks for way past Serbian who has beaten him in five finals this year
Rafael Nadal will play world number one Novak Djokovic in tonight's final of the US Open after producing his best tennis of the tournament so far to dismantle Briton Andy Murray in his semifinal on Saturday.
The world number two eased through the first two sets, before Murray battled back hard to take the third. But the defending champion proved too strong in the fourth, breaking twice to earn a 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 victory and set up the showdown with the Serbian in a repeat of last year's final.
"Tonight I played my best match so far and I'm very happy to be in the final," said the Spaniard. "The beginning of the fourth set was really important because Andy had a break point but I managed to save it."
A frustrated Murray, once again missing out on a shot at his first Grand Slam title, admitted he needed to improve. "It's disappointing to get so close," said the world number four. "I've lost to Rafa a few times this year. I need to work on my game and get physically stronger."
In his semifinal, Djokovic showed tremendous mental toughness to come from two sets down to beat Roger Federer 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5, successfully defending two match points against the Swiss world number three.
"It was definitely the biggest win of this year, one of the biggest wins of the career, under the circumstances," said Djokovic. "I was two sets down. Roger was in control, he was playing better and then I switched gears and I managed to play much better in three sets."
It's this improved confidence that Nadal sees as Djokovic's great advantage going into today's final (10pm, Canal Plus). The Mallorcan may have emerged the victor last year at Flushing Meadows, but he has lost all five finals he's played against the Serbian in 2011, including at Wimbledon.
"That's an advantage for him. He's obviously the favorite for the final, and I know I have to do something better than the other matches to try to change the situation," said Nadal.
"Novak this year is playing at a fantastic level mentally," he added. "I have my game, and I beat him in the past playing my game. [...] But I am not very happy about my mental performance against him this year. Because for moments I didn't really believe 100 percent.
"That's a big problem. Because when that's happening, you have less chance, much less than if you believe."