U.S. Open: Rafael Nadal wins ninth major title and first U.S. Open
Rafael Nadal won his first U.S. Open championship to become the seventh man in history to complete a career Grand Slam when he waited out a nearly two-hour rain delay and withstood a barrage of corner-kissing winners from Novak Djokovic of Serbia at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night.
Nadal, seeded first, beat the third-seeded Djokovic, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, to earn his ninth major title at the age of 24 years 101 days. He is the third-youngest man in the Open era of tennis to have won at least once at the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.
“You know, more than what I dreamed,” Nadal said. “It's amazing to be here in this final for me. To have the trophy here in a few seconds with my hands, gonna be unbelievable.”
When Nadal served out the victory he earned his third consecutive major title this year following victories at the French Open and Wimbledon. The second point of the final game was a nerveless volley that came after a couple of magical Djokovic shots. That gave Nadal a 30-0 love lead. Djokovic got one final chance to smile when he scored a point on a drop shot that touched the top of the net and trickled over. It was about the only way Nadal wouldn't have reached the ball. Nadal missed a backhand to level the game at 30-30. Nadal earned his first match point with a forehand passing shot that hit the baseline and caused Djokovic to throw up his arms and then bow to Nadal.
As all of the remaining crowd roared, Nadal wiped the sweat from his face and served. A short rally was finished by a Djokovic forehand that went wide.
“First of all, great honor to be here again after three years,” Djokovic said afterward. “Would like first to congratulate Rafa and his team for amazing tournament. Right now he's the best player in the world and he absolutely deserves this title. Well done again.
“Great experience every time I play here. Something special I'll remember in all my life, hopefully in a couple years I'll have a chance to fight for this trophy again.”
Nadal had to wait awhile for his historic win. The final scheduled for Sunday was rained out and with the score at 4-4 and 30-30 in the second set Monday, rain and lightning again caused a delay. There had been a period in that second set when Djokovic had won 11 straight points and taken a 4-1 lead, but Nadal had evened the match before the rain arrived.
It was Djokovic who seemed rejuvenated after the nearly two-hour break and the people who remained in the stadium or who found the match on television again (it had been moved from CBS to ESPN2 after the delay) were rewarded with a display of extreme tennis from both men. They were hitting the corners everywhere. Djokovic would occasionally sneak into the net. Both were unafraid to hit drop volleys or lobs.
But the effort of saving break points over and over seemed to finally tire out Djokovic by the start of the fourth set. Nadal earned a service break in the third game of the fourth set by converting for the fifth time on his 24th break point chance.
Nadal is the first left-handed player to win the U.S. Open since John McEnroe in 1984 and he is the first Spanish champion since Manuel Orantes won in 1975.
Djokovic's last-gasp chance in the sixth game of the final set when he earned a break point. But Nadal held serve after four deuces for a 5-1 lead. That hold might have been the one to save the match from the indignity of being pushed to a third television outlet. Had Nadal not ended things before 7:15 p.m. PDT, the NFL would have taken precedence and the tennis match would have been moved to ESPN Classic.
The win was Nadal's 21st consecutive in Grand Slam tournaments. He lost only one set on the way to this championship.
-- Diane Pucin, reporting from New YorkPhoto: Rafael Nadal reacts after winning a point against Novak Djokovic on Monday in the U.S. Open men's final. Credit: Justin Lane / EPA