Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Nadal Wins Second U.S. Open Title and 13th Major Overall

"This was their 37th match against each other, the most between any two men in the Open era, and Nadal has won 22. It also was their third head-to-head U.S. Open final in the last four years. Nadal beat Djokovic for the 2010 title, and Djokovic won their rematch in 2011."
Sports Illustrated:
No. 2 Rafael Nadal beat No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 on Monday to win his second U.S. Open title, 13th major overall and 10th title of the year. The Spaniard’s win, his 22nd straight on hard courts in 2013, moves him into sole possession of third place for Grand Slam titles, behind Roger Federer (17) and Pete Sampras (14).

Nadal, 27, skipped the tournament a year ago because of a knee injury. He took seven months off to rest and rehabilitate before returning to the tour in February. Since then, he’s gone 60-3.

“Probably only my team knows how much [the win] means for me,” Nadal said during the trophy presentation.

The final, which was highlighted by some incredible shot-making given the windy conditions, turned in the crucial third set. Djokovic looked firmly in control after securing an early break, but played a loose game at 3-2 to let Nadal back into the set. Despite being outplayed for most of the set, Nadal converted on his only two break chances to steal the set, and the 26-year-old Serb couldn’t recover.

“Playing against Novak always is a very special feeling,” Nadal said. “Probably nobody brings my game to the limit like Novak.”

Nadal hit 27 winners to 20 unforced errors, while Djokovic, who played the aggressor through much of the last three sets, pounded 46 winners to 53 unforced errors.

Djokovic, the 2011 U.S. Open champion and seven-time major winner, advanced to his seventh consecutive hard-court Grand Slam final with a five-set victory against Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals. The 26-year-old Serb trailed two sets to one before rallying in his first real test of the tournament, which included a four-set win over No. 21 Mikhail Youzhny in the quarterfinals and four routine wins against unseeded opponents.

Nadal, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, improved to 22-0 on hard courts and 60-3 overall in 2013, including at the French Open, which made him the first man with at least one Grand Slam trophy in nine consecutive seasons. The 27-year-old Spaniard had dropped one set at the U.S. Open, against No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber in the fourth round, and one service game, against No. 8 Richard Gasquet in the semifinals. The Frenchman won back-to-back five-setters to get there, outlasting No. 10 Milos Raonic in the fourth round and No. 4 David Ferrer in the quarterfinals.

“It’s always the biggest challenge that you can have in our sport now,” Djokovic said of beating Nadal, who is 59-3 this year. “He’s the ultimate competitor. He’s fighting for every ball and he’s playing probably the best tennis that he ever played on hard courts. … With no doubt he’s the best player in the moment this year.”

Djokovic has now lost in four of his last five Grand Slam finals, and fell to 1-3 against No. 2 Nadal this season. His No. 1 ranking, which he has held for the better part of the last two years, is now under immediate threat. Nadal has closed the point gap considerably on Djokovic during his incredible hard-court summer run, in which he won two ATP Masters 1000s and now the U.S. Open. With no points to defend through the remainder of the season, it’s only a matter of time before Nadal returns to the top spot.

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