Rafael Nadal will attempt to crown the year's most compelling comeback when he meets Novak Djokovic for the 37th time in Monday's US Open final.
Twelve months ago, the swashbuckling Spaniard, who will be playing in his 18th Grand Slam final, sat at home in Manacor, nursing his troublesome knees and fearing his career may be finished at just 26. But after seven months out of the sport, Nadal has been a revelation.
He has won nine titles, including a record eighth French Open, taking his Grand Slam haul to 12, stacked up a 59-3 victory run as well as a perfect stretch of 21 wins on hard courts.
Nadal leads Djokovic 21-15 in a career rivalry that began at Roland Garros in 2006. Their 37th meeting will be a record on head-to-head meetings, beating the 36 duels that John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl fought in their careers.
Nadal has won five of the last six meetings, a stretch which started after Djokovic won their epic 2012 Australian Open final, played out over a gruelling five hours and 53 minutes.
One of Nadal's wins was in a pulsating French Open semi-final in June where Djokovic led 4-2 in the final set before Nadal hit back to keep the Serb still waiting for a maiden title in Paris. Both men will be chasing their second title in New York — Djokovic was champion in 2011, beating the Spaniard the year after Nadal completed his career Grand Slam in the city by seeing off the Serb. Djokovic is playing in a fourth successive US Open final, fifth in total and 12th major championship of his career.
It is also his third major final of the season after seeing off Andy Murray in Australia before being overwhelmed by the Briton at Wimbledon.
Djokovic is already guaranteed to retain the World No.1 spot whatever happens on Sunday.AFP