NEW YORK (AP) — Novak Djokovic got the rain and the rest he was hoping for.
Now, tennis fans will see if that makes for a fair fight against the world’s top-ranked player, Rafael Nadal.
A rainout at the U.S. Open postponed the Djokovic-Nadal final until Monday, giving Djokovic the reprieve he wanted after his grueling, five-set semifinal victory over Roger Federer.
After No. 3 Djokovic’s win on Saturday — 3 hours, 34 minutes of exhausting tennis — he was told about the possibility of rain pushing back Sunday’s final.
He opened his eyes wide and rubbed his hands together.
“I don’t know the rituals; how to invite the rain,” he said. “An extra day would be great.”
He started warming up about 90 minutes before his match was supposed to start, but shortly after, rain started spitting on Flushing Meadows. It picked up from there. Tournament officials waited a few hours, then decided to call it a day, meaning the men’s final will be decided on Monday for the third straight year.
Assuming there’s no more rain — the forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of showers — the match is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. This marks the first three-year string of delayed finishes at the tournament since the men’s and women’s singles competitions were combined and played at the same site in 1935.
“It was such an uncertain forecast that we felt the right thing to do for the players — and certainly for the fans — was to postpone the remaining matches until tomorrow,” U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier said.
Nadal, of course, gets an extra day of rest, too, though he may not have needed it.
His semifinal was a straight-set win over Mikhail Youzhny that lasted only 2 hours, 13 minutes. Nadal hasn’t lost a set in the tournament. Either way, the delay means he had to wait another 24 hours for his shot at history. Playing in his first U.S. Open final, the Spaniard is seeking to become the seventh man to own at least one singles title at each of tennis’ four prestigious tournaments.
He takes a 20-match Grand Slam winning streak to the final, having won the French Open and Wimbledon to raise his major title total to eight. A victory over Djokovic also would make the 24-year-old Nadal the first man since Rod Laver’s true, calendar-year Grand Slam in 1969 to win at Paris, London and New York in the same season.
If he wins, Nadal will head to the Australian Open in January with a chance to pull off the “Rafa Slam” — four major titles in a row, something nobody has done since Laver.
The steady rain came on what was supposed to be the last day of a tournament that was threatened by Hurricane Earl during the first week, then hammered by persistent winds the second. In all, though, there was only a single, 25-minute delay over the first 13 days.
Then came Sunday. Another rainout. Another day of rest at the tournament that’s considered the biggest grind of all the Grand Slams because it’s the only one that schedules semifinals and finals on back-to-back days.
While the men were warming up, the women’s doubles final was halted in progress, with Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova three points from victory at 5-4 in the third set against Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova. With a thin mist falling, tournament referee Brian Earley and tournament director Brian Curley went on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court to check the conditions, determined the courts were too slick and sent the players to the locker room.
The doubles final was scheduled to resume Monday at 3 p.m. — meaning the women will come back, warm up and, if Huber and Petrova get off to a good start, might only end up playing three points.