Roger Federer would “love’’ it. Rafael Nadal would hate it.
The first-ever Federer-Nadal showdown at the U.S. Open is in the cards with their twin renaissances and spate of injuries that have decimated the men’s field — the latest the unsurprising withdrawal of No. 2 seed Andy Murray on Saturday.
Nadal, the No. 1 seed, and the third-seeded Federer are lined up for a semifinal clash, but with differing views on history. In an odd quirk to their epic rivalry, they never have faced each other at Flushing Meadows. That’s partly because when Federer ran off his five straight Opens (2004-2008), Nadal struggled in Queens.
Nadal said there are “10 victories to have that match’’ but he’d rather see a different foe if he gets there.
“If I am in semifinals, I prefer to play against another [player]’’ Nadal said Saturday. “Is obvious, no? I am not that way. Sounds very good, but the real thing I prefer to play against another player, an easier one if it’s possible.
“I know you want to hear the other way, that I would love to play him. Of course I understand that’s gonna be great for our history. Is true we played in all [other] Grand Slam finals. We never played here and we are not going to play in the finals. Finals are more special than semifinals.’’
The Swiss maestro has owned the Spanish bull this year, rallying in the fifth set to beat him in the Australian Open finals and dominating him in big hardcourt events at Indian Wells and Miami.
Of course, Federer avoided Nadal in Paris, pulling out of the French Open that Nadal captured for the 10th time. Nadal still leads the overall series, 23-14, but this again is on the hardcourts.
Federer said his back, which forced him to withdraw from the Western & Southern Open, final key Open tuneup, has mostly healed.
“I’d be happy to play him here,’’ Federer said. “We never played here in New York, so I think that would be fun for everybody involved. There is like 60-plus players in between us in our section that don’t agree. We have our work cut out there.
“I’d love to play Rafa here in New York. Hopefully that would be a great atmosphere. … I’m sure it will be a nice prospect.’’
Federer, who has a record 19 Grand Slam titles after adding two this year at age 36, plays someone almost half his age in the first round — 19-year-old American upstart Frances Tiafoe.
“I think it’s an interesting first round,’’ said Federer, who beat Tiafoe 7-6, 6-3 in Miami. “Clearly he has nothing to lose but everything to gain.He’s playing well — aggressive baseliner like so many of the Amercians. Thankfully I played him in Miami, so I have a big of an idea how he plays and his patterns.’’
Federer missed last year’s Open as he conducted an extended rehab after knee surgery. He’s more surprised at the host of injuries than that he and Nadal, who is 31, are back on top.
“People didn’t think he was going to win the French Open again,’’ Federer said. “For me, only once he retires, I believe he won’t win.’’
After skipping the Open tuneups, Murray (hip) announced Saturday he’s unready to play in Queens. Murray joins defending champion Stan Wawrinka, 2016 Open Finalist Novak Djokovic, 2015 Open finalist Kei Nishikori and hard-hitting Canadian Milos Raonic on the sidelines. Murray was the No. 2 seed, forcing the Open to juggle the draw.
“I tried resting, rehabbing to try to get ready here,’’ Murray said. “I ran out of time. I thought really reducing the load I would be OK by the Open. That’s not been the case.’’
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