Rafael Nadal wishes he was preparing to meet someone other than Novak Djokovic in the US Open final tonight but he hopes the pair can play another classic match.
Nadal and Djokovic have made a speciality out of playing long and gruelling matches against each other, none more so than a near six-hour Australian Open final last year.
Asked if he was looking forward to renewing the rivalry, Nadal said with a smile: “I prefer to play against another one. We have to be honest, no? We don’t have to be stupid.
“I want to play against a player that I have more chances to win. But I play against him. I played against him a lot of times. Always we played very exciting matches. When you are involved in these kind of matches, you feel special. And at the end, even if I lost that final in Australia, I feel happy to be involved in that match.
“It’s good if both of us are playing at a very good level so the match becomes great because we play long rallies, we bring our game to the limit. I hope to be ready for that. I need to keep playing very aggressive and play a very, very good match.”
Nadal has put together one of the most impressive seasons in tennis history despite only coming back in February following seven months out with knee problems.
The Spaniard has dominated in a way he did not manage even when he won three grand slam titles in 2010.
The 27-year-old has lost only three matches, and one of those was in the final of his first tournament back.
He was also beaten by Djokovic in the final in Monte Carlo, while the only real blip was a first-round defeat by Steve Darcis at Wimbledon.
That prompted more concern about the state of his knees but all Nadal really needed was time, and when he hit the hard courts of North America he looked better than ever.
The strapping on his knee was gone and Nadal has swept all before him on a surface previously considered his worst.
Remarkably, he has won all 21 of his matches on hard courts, collecting three Masters series titles and now standing one victory away from a second US Open crown.
Djokovic acknowledged that, while he may have number one by his name, it is his opponent who can claim that honour for 2013.
The Serb said: “He’s the ultimate competitor. He’s fighting for every ball and he’s playing probably the best tennis that he ever played on hard courts.
“He has got many injuries on this surface, but now he looks fit. He had seven months off. He lost three matches this year. With no doubt he’s the best player of the moment this year.
“So the way he’s been playing, he’s very confident, but I know how to play him. Hard court is my most successful surface. I have already played him here twice in finals. I know what I need to do.”