September 11, 2013

Rafael Nadal Victorious at the U.S. Open

By - Brad Heerschop

If you're getting sick of my articles about tennis and golf, here's some good news. This should be the last time I feel the need to speak about either again until January.

The U.S. Open marks the final tourney of the tennis season that anybody really cares about. This past weekend in New York, the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of the year saw a very unsurprising final matchup.

On the men's side, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic squared off against world No. 2 Rafael Nadal in a 4-set thriller. "Rafa" came out on top, winning 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in 3 hours and 21 minutes.

Photo by: Getty Images
The final match, played on the acrylic hard court of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, was the thirty-seventh time the two men have met, the most for any two male players in the Open era. It was also the third time in the last four years these two have battled in the U.S. Open finals, each of them winning one of the previous meetings.

For Novak Djokovic, it was his fourth-straight appearance in the finale, but he has only the lone victory to take away from those matches. Novak was looking for his seventh career Grand Slam title on Monday night, but the Serb instead finished as the runner-up for the sixth time.

Djokovic will still hold onto the No. 1 world ranking, but if Rafa keeps this pace up, it could just be a matter of time before he's back on top.

Last year, Nadal was forced to watch Andy Murray win the U.S. Open from the comfort of his own living room. A nagging knee injury had forced the Spaniard to withdraw from one of professional tennis' biggest stages.

Needless to say, this year was an entirely different story. Rafa captured his second major victory of the season on what is considered Djokovic's strongest surface to play on. The victory was Nadal's eighth ATP tournament win this year, which will definitely bode well for him in his quest to regain the No. 1 ranking.

The win gave Nadal thirteen career Grand Slam victories, just one shy of Pete Sampras for second all-time, and only four back of Roger Federer's record of seventeen titles.

The truly astonishing part of Nadal's historic season this year is his record of 22-0 on the hard court, a surface that traditionally hasn't served him well at all. In fact, not only is his play usually less admirable on the hard surface than on clay or grass, but it is the surface that has caused him the most physical pain to boot. With the way Rafa goes after every single ball and cuts on a dime at any given moment, the hard ground has been rough on his knees over the years.

Djokovic summed up the match perfectly when he told reporters: "It's obvious that in the important moments, he (Nadal) played better tennis. That's why he deserved to win."

With Roger Federer clearly on a natural decline, tennis is all about two players these days. It's Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and the rest of the field.

Don't expect this to be the last time we see these two great players showcase their skills against one another on the biggest stages, and it's fair to assume the matches will continue to be great. These guys never disappoint.

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