Djokovic overcomes Nadal in classic US Open final
Astonishing 31-shot rally goes to Serb, before Nadal fights back... But there’s not enough in Rafa’s tank
THE SERBIAN tennis player Novak Djokovic produced a spellbinding display to defeat defending champion Rafael Nadal in the final of the US Open, taking four hours and 10 minutes to beat the Spaniard 6-2 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-1 during a match of extraordinary intensity.
Though it was Djokovic's first success at Flushing Meadows, it was his third Grand Slam title in the calendar year, a feat achieved by only six men in the Open era.
It was also Djokovic's 64th victory in 66 matches this year (only Roger Federer and Andy Murray have beaten the 24-year-old) though afterwards he tried to play down his dominance. "I am not invincible," said Djokovic. "I just think a positive attitude keeps you on top of your game."
Nadal triumphed over Djokovic in the final of the 2010 US Open but has since been made to suffer for that victory. This year Nadal has lost all six of his matches against Djokovic, including the Wimbledon final.
Yet Nadal started the stronger of the two in front of a rapt audience inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium, breaking Djokovic's serve to storm into a 2-0 lead. Back came the Serb, however, breaking himself, and then saving three break points on his own serve to level at 2-2. Now with an iron grip on the match Djokovic took the first set 6-2 in 53 minutes.
He was also made to work hard for the second but it was in the third set that the two men conjured up tennis of the highest quality with Djokovic moving into a 3-2 lead only for Nadal to fight back with some powerful forehands. An astonishing 31-shot rally that went the way of Djokovic meant he was serving for the championship at 6-5 but Nadal showed his greatness by breaking his opponent and forcing a tie-break that he won with ease.
The Spaniard was a spent force in the fourth set, the strain of having played four tough matches in five days because of postponements caused by the weather (compared to Djokovic's three matches) evident as he wilted under his opponent's ferocious forehands.
"I'm disappointed but Novak is doing unbelievable things," Nadal said later. "What he did this year is probably impossible to repeat. I tried my best in every point. I tried to play aggressive but he made fantastic comebacks. I fought until last ball."
Djokovic ends the majors season in a class of his own with only the defeat to Roger Federer in the French Open semi final preventing him emulating Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) as the only men to have achieved the Grand Slam in a calendar year.
Ominously for his rivals Djokovic said there was still a lot of room for improvement. "I want to win more majors and prove things to myself," he told reporters in the wake of his US Open success. "It would be unbelievable to complete the Grand Slam. I need to win the French Open, but I think it will take time."