By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2010; D3
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. - First, the U.S. Open lost its longed-for final - Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, meeting for the first time in New York - when third-seeded Novak Djokovic ousted the Swiss great in a five-set thriller Saturday afternoon.
Then came Sunday's rain, which for a third consecutive year washed out the men's final and postponed it to the TV-ratings wasteland of Monday afternoon.
If there's a silver lining in the dark cloud that crept over the 2010 men's final Sunday, it's that the extra day of rest should make for a far more competitive match when Nadal, the world's top-ranked player, and Djokovic finally square off on Arthur Ashe Stadium at approximately 4 p.m. Monday.
That's because Nadal breezed through his semifinal Saturday, needing just 2 hours 13 minutes to dismiss an already depleted Mikhail Youzhny.
Djokovic, by contrast, was forced to play the match of his life to topple Federer, who had stomped him on three previous occasions at the U.S. Open. It took nearly four hours, with Djokovic covering tremendous ground in tracking down Federer's barrage of groundstrokes and firing back brilliant, bold winners in the decisive fifth set.
Djokovic conceded afterward that the energy-sapping victory complicated an already daunting challenge in facing Nadal, who holds a 14-7 advantage in their rivalry, a mere 20 hours later. When informed that rain was forecast Sunday, Djokovic grinned broadly and started improvising a rain dance.
"I don't know the rituals how to invite the rain," he said, "but . . . an extra day would be great, actually."
The Serb got his wish shortly after 3 p.m., when rain started falling at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center. Djokovic and Nadal had each gotten in a light workout on the practice court earlier in the day.
But he and Nadal never took center court.
After twice delaying the start of the final, tournament officials announced the postponement shortly after 6 p.m., citing "continued uncertainty of the weather forecast for the remainder of the evening" and "the desire to be fair to the players and to our fans."
It's the third consecutive year that the men's final has been moved to Monday because of rain. On both previous occasions, it resulted in the lowest TV ratings for the men's final since 1978, when ratings were first tracked.
The 2008 rain-delayed final between Federer and Scotland's Andy Murray drew a 1.7 rating. The 2009 final between Federer and Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro did slightly better, 2.3.
Only three matches were completed Sunday, including the junior boys' final, with Arlington's Denis Kudla falling to Jack Sock of Lincoln, Neb., 3-6, 6-2, 6-2; the all-Russian junior girls' final, with Daria Gavrilova dismissing Yulia Putintseva, 6-3, 6-2; and Esther Vergeer defeating Daniela DiToro, 6-0, 6-0, in the wheelchair tennis final.
The women's doubles final, which was halted in progress, will be completed on Ashe at 3 p.m. The Nadal-Djokovic match will follow.
Nadal, 24, has won two of the season's three majors-the French Open (for a fifth time) and Wimbledon (for a second time). The U.S. Open is the lone major to elude him. If he wins it, he'll become just the seventh man in history (and second youngest) to complete a career Grand Slam (winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open).
In the Open Era, only Federer and Andre Agassi achieved the feat.