Rafael Nadal knows he will have to be at his best if he is to retain his US Open title against Novak Djokovic in the final at Flushing Meadows.
Nadal ready for Djokovic test in US Open final
Tennis is a game of confidence, and Rafa Nadal, the defending champion, hopes his US Open run will lift him up after a season of frustration against Novak Djokovic, his opponent in today's men's singles final.
Nadal beat Britain's Andy Murray, the fourth seed, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 in Saturday's semi-final.
"For sure it is an emotional day for me, winning against one of the best players of the world and being in another final of the US Open," the 25-year-old Spaniard said.
"I am playing at a very good level, I think every day is better, and today I played my best match against a most difficult opponent."
"I had a few tough moments this summer, and I think every day I wake up with big motivation to practise and try my best at every moment, and finally I had a very positive result."
Nadal turns his sights on world No 1 Djokovic today.
The Spaniard defeated Djokovic in last year's final at Flushing Meadows but has since been dominated by the Serbian in five finals this year, including Wimbledon in July, where he was beaten in four sets.
"That's an advantage for him. He's obviously the favourite for the final, and I know I have to do something better than the other matches to try to change the situation," Nadal said of Djokovic, who battled back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer, the 16-time grand slam winner, in his semi-final.
"Novak, this year, is playing at a fantastic level, mentally," the Spaniard said. "That's, yeah, big confidence."
The hard-hitting Nadal said that the key to beating Djokovic was between the ears.
"I have my game, and I beat him in the past playing my game," he said"I am not very happy about my mental performance against him this year, because for moments I didn't believe really 100 per cent.
"That's a big problem. Because when that's happening, you have less chance, much less than if you believe.
"Because if you believe, you are running more, you are putting one more ball inside."
Djokovic goes into the final buoyed by his stirring comeback victory over Federer. It leaves the Serb's record at 63 wins and just two defeats in 2011.
"This is the best year of my career, by far, maybe the confidence level lets me go for that shot," he said. "I didn't think I'm going to lose. It's always important to stay calm, be positive and believe you can win."
Djokovic survived two match points in the final set against Federer and he confessed that he had thought his chances of reaching a third US Open final looked unlikely.
"I would lie if I say I didn't think I'm going to lose," the Serbian said.
Federer's defeat means that for the first time since 2002 he will finish a calendar year without winning one of the four grand slam titles in tennis.
But the Swiss player, claimed that his drought of major titles, which goes back to the 2010 Australian Open, means he will be even more determined next year to get back to winning ways.
"I guess I will be extremely hungry going to Australia next year," he said.
"I know if I keep on working hard now that I'm feeling so good right now it will all pay off. I know it."
Saturday's defeat marked the second time in as many grand slams that Federer let slip a two sets lead — something he had never done in a major tournament before Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the Frenchman, rallied to shock him in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Until then, Federer's only defeats when he won the first two sets of a match had come against Lleyton Hewitt in the 2003 Davis Cup final and in the 2005 Masters Cup in Shanghai against David Nalbandian.
The 30 year old though said he would not allow the defeat to love long in his mind.
"Sure, I'd love to be in the finals and give myself a chance to win the title, which is not the case now. So I have to accept that and move on."