Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal Duel, Once Again, for Supremacy

Neither dropped a set along the way, and now the 31-year-old Nadal and the just-about-36-year-old Federer are in position for a days-of-yore duel for the No. 1 ranking. It still belongs to Andy Murray but probably will not for long given the state of Murray’s hip and the mother lode of points he has to defend before the end of the season.

So bring on the United States Open, the year’s final Grand Slam tournament and the only major tournament in which Nadal and Federer have never faced each other. It begins Aug. 28, and Federer is already the bookmakers’ favorite.

Who can blame them? He was the pretournament favorite at Wimbledon, too.

He can obviously handle the burden, but it is no doubt less magical to win when many expect it than when nobody expects it, which was how he won the Australian Open in January.

“It felt like a fairy tale,” he said of Australia on Monday morning at the All England Club, looking a little groggy after partying with a large group of friends and finally going to bed at 5 a.m.

“My head is ringing; I don’t know what I did last night,” he said, his baritone voice a note or two lower than usual. “I just drank too many types of drinks, I guess.”

Federer presumably will be as smart as usual about recovery even if he admits that he is eager for more matches after spending much of the last year rehabilitating his postoperative knee, doing fitness work or practicing.

He has picked his spots and tournaments beautifully, however, which is how he is ranked No. 3 despite playing just seven tour events in the last 12 months.

Federer also has no points to defend the rest of the year. He is No. 2 in the 2017 points race, behind Nadal, who has 7,095 points to Federer’s 6,545. Nobody else is close, certainly not Murray or Novak Djokovic, the two men who — way back in January — were expected to dominate the season.

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Rafael Nadal after winning his record 10th…

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