Here's Why Federer And Nadal Have Never Played Each Other At US OpenS

Two days ago, Serena Williams was told that two great rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have never played each other at the U.S. Open.

"Really?" she said. "Wow. Gosh, that's weird, huh."

It is weird, and it won't happen this year, either: Federer lost to Tommy Robredo last night in straight sets, once again depriving New York and the one American major the matchup it's never had. (Federer and Nadal—who won in four sets last night—would have met in the quarterfinals tomorrow night.)

Federer and Nadal have played each other 10 times in Grand Slams—5 times in Paris, three times at Wimbledon, and twice in Melbourne—with Nadal having lost just twice, both at Wimbledon. (Their lifetime hard court record is much closer, with Nadal holding a 7-6 edge.)

So why haven't they played in New York?

"For two times we were one point away. For this time we were one match away," Nadal said last night, pointing to the matches where Federer blew it.

"Maybe more his fault," Federer said three days ago.

So Federer is occasionally a bitch. But still: it was Nadal's fault in the early days. Rafa may be the greatest clay court player in tennis history, but he didn't become a threat on grass and hard courts until three or four years into Federer's prime. The nearest misses, though—2010, 2011 and this year—are all on Fed.

The rivalry didn't start in earnest until six years ago or so, but let's go through the last 10 U.S. Opens and track why it's never happened in Flushing Meadows. We'll start with Federer's first-ever U.S. Open men's final appearance in 2004.

2004

Federer: Won U.S. Open.

Nadal: Lost in the second round in straight sets to defending champ Andy Roddick.

2005

Federer: Won U.S. Open.

Nadal: Lost in four sets to James Blake in third round. (Blake would go on and lose a quarterfinal classic to Andre Agassi).

2006

Federer: Won U.S. Open.

Nadal: Lost in the quarterfinals to Mikhail Youzhny.

2007

Federer: Won U.S. Open.

Nadal: Lost in the fourth round to David Ferrer, at a little before 2 a.m.

2008

Federer: Won U.S. Open.

Nadal: Lost in the semifinals to Andy Murray.

2009

Federer: Lost U.S. Open men's final to Juan Martin del Potro.

Nadal: Lost in the semifinals—6-2, 6-2, 6-2—to del Potro.

2010

Federer: Lost in a five-set classic Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. Djokovic saved two match points with two incredible forehand winners, which became the moment when, in hindsight, Federer surrendered hegemony over the tennis world.

Nadal: Won U.S. Open.

2011

Federer: Lost in another five set thriller to Djokovic where the Serb—again—saved two match points.

Nadal: Lost in men's final to Novak Djokovic.

2012

Federer: Lost in the quarterfinals to Tomas Berdych.

Nadal: Did not play.

2013

Federer: Lost in the fourth round in straight sets to Tommy Robredo.

Nadal: Defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber in the 4th round, and advanced to the quarterfinals—without Roger.

"It would have been a quarters, not a final," Federer said last night, by way of downplaying the significance of what now won't happen. "Not that much of a disappointment at the end of the day." Speak for yourself, Roger. It was probably the last chance to get these two in New York in something close to fighting form, especially with Federer looking older by the second. Even Nadal after his win last night conceded a heartbreaking truth: The door is closing on getting these two to play in the biggest court in the world.

"That's don't mean cannot happen in the future," Rafa said. "We'll see. Hopefully. But is true that we are getting older, so the chances are less today than five years ago."