• US Open, Day 15

Brilliant Djokovic repels Nadal to take US Open title

ESPN staff
September 12, 2011
Novak Djokovic dug in to claim a brilliant four-set win © Getty Images

Novak Djokovic's dominance of Rafael Nadal continued as the Serb clinched his third grand slam of the year with a thrilling 6-2 6-4 6-7(3) 6-1 win in the final of the US Open.

Djokovic has lost just two matches all season and he proved he is the dominant force in world tennis by withstanding a fightback from Nadal and overcoming fatigue to take the title.

The Spaniard demonstrated the fighting qualities that have taken him to 10 grand slam titles as he dug in to claim the third set and looked set to race away as Djokovic tired but the world No. 1 shook off mental and physical fatigue to get the job done in a match that spanned four hours and 15 minutes.

The two had met on five previous occasions this year and Djokovic had won the lot. And he began the match like a player confident he had the measure of his opponent. He came out with intent, seizing on some short balls from Nadal and the Spaniard was pushed hard to hold his opening service game.

Despite the stunning start from Djokovic, it was Nadal who drew first blood. He fired a forehand down the line to craft a break point and a poor backhand into the net from Djokovic secured the break.

From that point though, the first set was one-way traffic in the Serb's direction. Nadal's serve let him down in the following game. He made just one first serve and Djokovic did not pass up the chance as some power hitting forced the error from his rival's racket.

Djokovic held serve from 15-40 in the following game and he piled pressure on Nadal, with some immense hitting forcing the Spaniard further and further behind the baseline.

Nadal looked utterly confused as the opening set progressed, as his hitting was less than clean and there was no sign of the rasping forehands that did for Andy Roddick and Andy Murray.

With Nadal behind the baseline, Djokovic had the presence of mind to mix things up and he broke through for a second time on the back of two stunning drop shots that Nadal did not even attempt to chase down.

Djokovic made it six games on the spin when holding serve to close out the set, as Nadal looked like a player without answers.

The Spaniard stopped the rot with a strong hold at the start of the second set and then duly broke through, with a blistering forehand down the line crafting the break point.

As in the first set, the Nadal forehand down the line disappeared from view and Djokovic earned the break back in an epic 17-minute game. The level of play was simply stunning and it was a shame that Nadal surrendered his serve by sending a smash into the net.

The second mirrored the pattern of the opening set as Djokovic converted back-to-back breaks to lead 3-2 - leaving Nadal to wander to his chair and begin a lengthy discussion with the umpire. It was a clear sign that Nadal was rattled and not even a time warning could knock Djokovic out of his stride.

Rafael Nadal gave it his all but came up short in the defence of his title © Getty Images

Nadal fended off a double break in an eight-minute game and then found a foothold by breaking through to level at 4-4.

Inexplicably, though, Nadal dropped his serve as three poor forehands gifted the advantage to the Serb. Djokovic converted his serve to move two sets to the good, with the Nadal forehand breaking down badly as he framed two balls.

Andy Murray spoke about the difficulty in reading Nadal's serve following his semi-final loss, but Djokovic had no such trouble and he secured a seventh break of serve in the third game of the third set.

Nadal's mental resolve is legendary and he broke back to level at 2-2, but it only served to lift Djokovic to greater heights. Another game in excess of ten minutes saw some of the best tennis of the match, with Nadal crafting some supreme backhand slices and blistering forehands but Djokovic had an answer to every question and broke again to lead at 3-2.

The see-saw nature of the third set continued as Nadal stepped up two feet on to the baseline and started to crash winners for fun. He broke back with ease and held in a similar vein - hitting cleanly from the baseline and forcing Djokovic into errors.

Djokovic soaked up some huge blows from Nadal to hold in another game that extended beyond 10 minutes.

Further breaks were traded and the set was extended into a tiebreak. Nadal got himself ahead early in the breaker as errors flew off both backhand and forehand of the Djokovic racket. The two served up one of the points of the match in the breaker, with Nadal retrieving a backhand that looked out of his reach and then powered away a winner two strokes later. The Spaniard's simple refusal to throw in the towel saw him extend the match.

Djokovic called the trainer out at the changeover for treatment on a back injury and his movement was restricted - with the Serb regularly stretching out his back but he somehow managed to hold serve in his opening game of the set.

Djokovic took a medical timeout after the first game and the trainer worked hard to stretch out the muscles in his back. The five-minute break appeared to unsettle Nadal and remarkably Djokovic broke through - somehow finding a forehand winner on his fourth break point.

The No. 1 seed could barely raise his racket above his head to serve and the pace was hugely down, but he relied on precision and held for a 3-0 lead.

Nadal stopped the rot to get on the board in the fourth with a love service hold, but he too began to look fatigued as the match ticked beyond the four-hour mark.

Djokovic was running on fumes, but also on the desire to take his first US Open title and third slam of the year and a strong love hold handed him a cushion and a string of brilliant winners secured him a second break for a 5-1 lead.

Having wobbled on the ropes, Djokovic bounced off them and served out to claim his first Flushing Meadows crown - after two previous near misses.

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