• US Open

Rafa Nadal wins second US Open crown

ESPN staff
September 10, 2013
Rafa Nadal celebrates his second US Open title © AP

Rafa Nadal beat Noval Djokovic in four sets to secure his second US Open title and the 13th grand slam of his career, putting him one behind Peter Sampras and within four of Roger Federer.

The scoreline - Nadal won 6-2 3-6 6-4 6-1 in three hours 21 minutes - does not reflect the tense match which included one rally of 54 shots, the longest of the tournament by 20 strokes.

"This is probably the most emotional one in my career," Nadal said. "I know I had to be almost perfect to win."

They started in sunlight and finished at night, in a match of cliffhangers and plot twists and a pair of protagonists who inspired standing ovations in the middle of games. "Probably nobody brings my game to the limit like Novak," said Nadal, who collected $3.6 million in prize money, including a $1 million bonus for results during the North American hard-court circuit.

Some of the rallies went so long, rarely over when they appeared to be, and spectators often shouted out during the course of play, prompting Nadal to complain to the chair umpire.

Nadal was relentless from shot to shot, and from point to point, too, but what might have been most impressive was the way he stayed steady when Djokovic recovered from a rough start and began asserting himself.

At the outset, Djokovic was his own worst enemy on many points, a touch or two off the mark. Nadal claimed 12 of the last 14 points in the first set, with Djokovic looking almost bored. He was coming off another four-hour semifinal victory, and the key stat in the first set Monday was that he made 14 unforced errors, 10 more than Nadal.

'Nadal can win 20 grand slams'

Nadal celebrates his US Open win © AP
  • Now at 13 major wins, Rafael Nadal can go on and surpass Roger Federer's current record of 17 - and then some, writes former British No. 1 Chris Wilkinson.
  • ESPN's resident tennis expert also believes the Swiss legend has some harsh realities to face up to, while Andy Murray will need to learn quickly how to deal with the added pressure of being Wimbledon champion.
  • Click here to read the full column.

There were no surprising or innovative tactics from Nadal. In the simplest of terms, he reached nearly every ball Djokovic delivered, and Nadal's replies nearly never missed the intended spot, accented by his huge uppercut of a swing and loud grunts of "Aaaah!" By match's end, Djokovic had made 53 unforced errors, Nadal only 20.

Nadal was broken a grand total of once through his first six matches in the tournament - a string that reached 88 games by early in the final's second set. But with Djokovic raising his level, and gaining control of more of the many extended exchanges, he broke Nadal three times in a row. "When Novak plays [at] that level," Nadal said, "I'm not sure if [anybody can] stop him."

The first came for a 4-2 lead in the second set, thanks to the crescendo of the longest point of these two weeks, which ended when Nadal's backhand found the net on the 55th stroke. Djokovic used superb defence to elongate the point, tossing his body around to bail himself out repeatedly by blunting Nadal's violent strokes. When the memorable point ended, Djokovic bellowed and raised both arms, and thousands of fans rose to their feet, chanting his nickname, "No-le! No-le!" Now Djokovic was energized, and Nadal was suddenly in a tad of trouble.

The final momentum shift came with Nadal serving at 4-all in the third set. Djokovic earned three break points, thanks in part to a tremendous lob-volley and another point when Nadal slipped and tumbled to his backside. But a quick forehand winner by Nadal, a forehand into the net by Djokovic on a 22-stroke point, and a 125 mph ace - Nadal's only one of the evening - helped avoid another break.

In the very next game, Nadal broke Djokovic's serve and, apparently, his will. When that set ended with Djokovic pushing a forehand long on a 19-shot point, Nadal screamed as he knelt down at the baseline, his racket on the court and his left fist pumping over and over and over.

Djokovic made one last serious stand, holding break points in the fourth set's first game, but Nadal saved those, then immediately broke to go ahead 2-0. Once again, Nadal withstood Djokovic's best and was on his way to another grand slam celebration.

"It's what we do when we play against each other, always pushing each other to the limit," Djokovic said. "That's the beauty of our matches and our rivalry, I guess, in the end.

"He was too good. He definitely deserved to win this match today and this trophy. Thirteen Grand Slams for a guy who is 27 years old is incredible. Whatever he achieved so far in his career, everybody should respect, no question about it."

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 US Open final in the last four years. Nadal beat Djokovic for the 2010 title, and Djokovic won their rematch in 2011.

A rare undignified moment for Nadal © AP

Material from Associated Press was used in this article

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