Can Murray take down last year's champ?

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Who will win the U.S. Open men's singles final?

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC
ANDY MURRAY

Djokovic will send a message

Garber By Greg Garber
ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- Look, Mr. Wilansky, I'm a big fan of destiny.

It was nice to see Andy Murray win the gold medal on home soil at the All England Club. Charming. Heartwarming, even.

Just like you, I've been picking Murray to win Grand Slams for years -- and always have gotten burned in the process. Last year, I was pretty sure he was ready to break through and win that first major, but then he didn't. Again. I vowed at the time never to predict a Grand Slam singles victory for him until he actually won one.

So this is me taking my own advice: I'll go with Novak Djokovic to win the men's final on Monday. I know, I know. Really stepping out on a limb here.

Just the facts, man: Djokovic has won five major titles. Murray has been to four finals -- and lost them all.

Sure, he's due. But so is Djokovic.

This is Djokovic's chance to back up his stellar 2011 season, his opportunity to put a little space between him and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. And, yes, Murray. In a few years, it could be just the two of them playing for these things. This is a nice spot to send a message -- like Rafa's win over Federer at Wimbledon in 2008 after losing in the two previous finals.

Did you see Djokovic on Sunday? He spotted David Ferrer, a feisty little fellow, one set. And then he crushed him. Knowing that Murray had the benefit of an extra day off, he needed to take care of business and get off the court.

I am usually a sucker for the sweet story, Mr. Wilansky. The Olympics were full of them. I swelled with national pride when The Fierce Five came through. Pumped my fist when Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte won races. When Murray beat Federer on the grass at Wimbledon -- I never imagined I'd write that sentence -- I was happy for him.

"Nice that he has that moment," I thought to myself. "They can't take that one away from him."

Djokovic has already taken one directly from Murray; when they met in the Australian Open final last year, he won a total of only nine games.

This time, it will be Djokovic, again, in three.

Momentum on Murray's side

Wilansky By Matt Wilansky
ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- Greetings, Mr. Garber. With just one match to go in the Slam season, some might call this U.S. Open final predictable. But here's what's not so predictable: the outcome.

Saturday, with winds whipping at upward of 30 miles per hour, Andy Murray sunk his teeth in and out-toughed Tomas Berdych in four sets. He made all the right adjustments during a match that had tornadoes lurking in the background. He sliced and diced but turned up the heat when he needed to. All so he could finally (finally!) take a step closer to meeting his destiny.

It's easy to pick Novak Djokovic in this one, Mr. Garber. After all, he is the defending champ and carries a championship pedigree. But Murray has something else going for him -- you know, the M-word: momentum. He is, in case you've been living in a cave, your reigning Olympic gold-medal winner. Murray soothed a nation, which for years couldn't rid itself of ghosts and futility and all that awful stuff.

Sure, I get it: The Olympics are not a Slam, but they are still … the Olympics. If Murray can win with that kind of pressure, and, oh by the way, quell a couple of studs known worldwide as Djokovic and Roger Federer, this match, by comparison, should be relatively stress-free.

And what a nice slice of symmetry this Open final will turn out to be: Ivan Lendl, Murray's coach, went winless in his first four Slam finals until breaking through. Then he reeled off eight majors and made a beeline right to the hall of fame. Murray, of course, is in his fifth major final.

And let's face it: Murray's credentials clearly belie his Slam futility. He has 23 career titles, the most of any active player without a major, and with a win over Djokovic, he'd unseat Rafael Nadal as the No. 3 player in the world.

Oh, and here's something to ponder: Murray is going to have a day of rest, and that's huge. As he said in his presser, it'll give him time to practice and find his rhythm. Djokovic won't have that luxury.

So yes, Mr. Garber, go out on a limb and pick Djokovic. But not even a multitime Slam winner can stop destiny.

This time, it will be Murray, finally, in five.