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Djokovic One Step Closer To Ending Nadal's Year-End No. 1 Hopes

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Djokovic © Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic is aiming to win his third Grand Slam title of 2011.

Novak Djokovic could deliver the killer blow in the battle for the year-end No. 1 South African Airway ATP Ranking should he defeat defending champion Rafael Nadal in the US Open final Monday.

Nadal had clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking for the second time in three years after defeating the Serbian in the 2010 US Open final, but relinquished his spot in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings to Djokovic following Wimbledon this past July. He has since seen the Serbian extend his lead at the top.

Novak & Rafa: The Rivalry

A victory Monday would give Djokovic his third Grand Slam crown of 2011 to Nadal’s one, and would increase his advantage over his rival in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Year-To-Date Rankings to 4,310 points. To put it in context, an undefeated champion at the biggest three events over the final stretch of the season - the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Shanghai and Paris and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals - would net a total of 3,500 points.

Djokovic is coming off what he’s called “the greatest victory I had in 2011”, rallying from an 0-2 sets deficit and saving two match points for a second straight year to defeat five-time champion Roger Federer in Saturday’s semi-final, and will take added confidence from his superb season into a US Open rematch with Nadal.

“It's obvious that this is the best year of my career, by far,” said the World No. 1. “The confidence level that is very high at this moment for me helps me to get into this big matches and go for the shots that I maybe in some situations wouldn’t, that I wasn't going for those shots in the past couple years. But it's all I think a process of learning and getting experience and maturing as a player, as a person.

“It might have been the case that it helped me in this match [against Federer], knowing that I have such a great season and knowing that I have such great confidence. I really have nothing to lose, even though it's the semi-finals of a Grand Slam and playing somebody that is a great rival of mine. But for these matches you're working hard and you want to be there. You want to be there and you want to win against guys like Federer.”

Djokovic, who opened the year with the Australian Open title, is attempting to become the sixth man in the Open Era to win three Grand Slam titles in the same season, joining Rod Laver (1969), Jimmy Connors (1974), Mats Wilander (1988), Federer (2004, 2006-07) and Nadal (2010).

While Djokovic is chasing his 10th title of an incredible season, including a historic haul of five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophies, Nadal has won three titles - at Roland Garros, Monte-Carlo and Barcelona - and been relegated to runner-up status five times by Djokovic going into the US Open final.

“For moments I didn’t believe really 100 per cent with the victory,” admitted Nadal. “That’s the big problem because when that’s happening, you have less chances, much less than if you believe. If you believe, you are running more, you are putting one more ball inside. So that’s the problem, and that's what I’m gonna try to change for Monday. 

“If I’m not ready to change for Monday, I have a goal to do it for next year, so I am ready to work hard. I am ready to work my tennis, to work my mental part, and hopefully I will ready for Monday. That’s what I would like. But if not, I really believe that I can come back next year and do it better.”

The last player to hold down the year-end No. 1 South African Airway ATP Ranking other than Nadal or Federer was Andy Roddick, following his 2003 US Open triumph.

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