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Federer-Nadal: The US Open rivalry that's never happened

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at Aurthur Ashe Kids' Day

On Sunday, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will square off in the 2017 Australian Open final, with Federer looking to win his record-extending 18th Grand Slam singles title and Nadal aiming for his 15th, which would place him alone in second place on the all-time men’s list.

The match will mark the 35th time these two iconic rivals have played each other – Nadal leads the head to head, 23-11 – in matches and tournaments across the globe. But never, amazingly, at the US Open.

That doesn’t mean they haven’t come close, however. Here’s a look at the Federer-Nadal near misses at the US Open:

Roger Federer wins his fourth straight US Open, becoming the first man since Bill Tilden to achieve the feat.

2008

The 2008 US Open marked the first of four consecutive tournaments in which both Federer and Nadal reached the semifinals, only for one of them to advance and the other to fall. In the first of those, it was Andy Murray who spoiled the matchup of No. 1 versus No. 2, defeating Nadal in four sets to oust the top seed in his first US Open semifinal. Second seed Federer, meantime, held up his end of the bargain, beating Novak Djokovic in four sets en route to the title match, where he straight-setted Murray for the last of his five consecutive men’s singles titles.

2009

The 2009 US Open proved an even bigger stunner than the year before. Once again, Federer defeated Djokovic in the semifinals, but it was 20-year-old Juan Martin del Potro who would steal the show. The towering Argentine whipped Nadal in straight sets in the semis and then outlasted Federer in five sets in the final for his first – and to date, only – Grand Slam triumph.

2010

After years of falling just short in New York, Nadal finally broke through in 2010, dismissing surprise semifinalist Mikhail Youzhny to reach his first US Open men’s singles final. But once again, the Open was denied a Nadal-Fed showdown, as Djokovic finally broke through against the Swiss, saving two match points to defeat Federer in a memorable five-setter. Nadal would go on to defeat Djokovic in four sets for his first Open crown.

2011

The 2011 US Open played out in similar fashion to 2010. Once again, Nadal emerged, defeating Murray in four sets to advance to the final for the second consecutive year. And once again he was joined there by Djokovic, who once again saved two match points to defeat Federer in a five-set semifinal classic. This time, Djokovic would finish the job, topping Nadal in four sets for his first men’s singles championship.

2013

Federer had fallen to the seventh seed for the 2013 US Open, setting up a potential quarterfinal against the second-seeded Nadal. Both advanced cleanly to the round of 16. There, the Spaniard played first and came through in four sets over No. 22 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Federer, meantime, was going up against No. 19 seed Tommy Robredo, a player against whom the five-time champ sported a 10-0 lifetime record, having dropped just three of 25 sets the two had played to that point. Adding to Fed’s favored status, Robredo was 0-7 in his career in US Open fourth-round matches, while Federer had won nine in a row at Flushing Meadows in the same round.

But Robredo played inspired tennis on this night, shocking Federer in straight sets to advance to the US Open quarterfinals for the first time. Nadal would easily dispatch his countryman in the next round, dropping just four games over three sets, en route to his second US Open title.