Nadal captures U.S. Open to complete career Grand Slam

The Sports Network
9/14/2010 2:29:25 AM
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Flushing Meadows, NY (Sports Network) - It took an extra day, but Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal became the seventh man in history to complete a coveted career Grand Slam as he defeated Serbian Novak Djokovic in four sets in Monday's final at the 2010 U.S. Open.

The world No. 1 Nadal captured his first career U.S. Open title in his first final in New York with the 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 win over the third-seeded Djokovic.

The final was supposed to be staged on Sunday, but rain pushed it into Monday for a third straight year. Even with the extra day, players endured a near two-hour rain delay in the middle of Monday's encounter.

The Mallorca native Nadal also became the first man in 41 years (Rod Laver) to win three straight Grand Slam events in one calendar year, as he also captured this year's French Open and Wimbledon titles.

Nadal joins Roger Federer, Andre Agassi, Don Budge, Laver, Fred Perry and Roy Emerson as the only men to nail down all four major championships during their careers.

"It's a dream to have the career Grand Slam, but this is more of a dream to have the U.S. Open (title)," Nadal said. "I worked a lot all my life, in all difficult moments to be here, but I never imagined to have the four Grand Slams."

The 24-year-old Spaniard is now 42-12 in his career ATP finals, including an outstanding 9-2 record in Grand Slam championship matches. He's 6-1 in his 2010 finals overall, but is still seven Grand Slam titles shy of Federer's record 16.

"I am more than happy with my titles," Nadal said. "To talk about if I am better or worse than Roger is stupid, because the titles say he is much better than me. For me, always Roger was an example because he improved his standing throughout his career. I tried to copy this. I know Roger and I have much different styles, but being better than Roger...I don't think this is the right moment to talk about that because I am not. I don't think so."

Nadal, who earned the first-place prize of $1.7 million, also owns an Olympic gold medal, which makes him one of only two men to corral the career Golden Slam, with the great Agassi being the other. Nadal has won his last 21 Grand Slam matches overall.

Djokovic is now 17-12 in his overall career finals, including 1-1 this season. He titled in Dubai back in February.

Nadal is now 15-7 lifetime against Djokovic, who had won their last three meetings, all on hardcourts. Djokovic is still 7-4 versus Nadal on hard surfaces, but Nadal is now a perfect 5-0 in their career Grand Slam matchups.

"Right now he's the best player in the world and he absolutely deserves this title," Djokovic said. "Well done again."

There were another few eye-opening tidbits from Nadal's win. He is the first left-hander to win the title since John McEnroe in 1984 and the first Spanish champion since Manuel Orantes in 1975.

Djokovic, who was the 2008 Australian Open champ, fell to 1-2 in his career major finals, with both losses coming at the U.S. Open. The Serbian stalwart lost to Federer in the 2007 finale here, but avenged that setback by stunning the five-time U.S. Open champ in this past Saturday's semifinals in Flushing. Djokovic prevailed two days ago by staving off two match points and overcoming a two-sets-to-one deficit in a classic five-set thriller.

The 23-year-old Djokovic, who is now ranked second in the world, failed in his attempt to become only the second man to beat both Nadal and Federer at a major event. Argentine slugger Juan Martin del Potro turned the trick here in New York last year, including a five-set come-from-behind victory over Federer in the final.

Nadal had just two unforced errors in an amazingly powerful fourth set. He ended with 31 for the match, which was 16 less than his counterpart. Nadal also had 26 break point chances, converting on six of them.

In the final set, Nadal broke serve for a 2-1 lead when Djokovic sent a forehand long. After holding serve, Nadal broke again, this time on another unforced error from his frustrated opponent.

Nadal saved a break point chance in the sixth game, and after the Serbian held serve in the next game, Nadal used his incredible footwork to finish off the match. He first raced to the net and delivered a forehand that clipped the back of the line, winning the point despite Djokovic challenging the call. Then on match point, Djokovic sent a forehand wide, and Nadal collapsed in elation.

"I think for the first time in my career I played a very, very good match at this tournament," Nadal said. "I played my best match at the U.S. Open at the most important moment."

In the first set, Nadal broke Djokovic to open the bout, but the Serbian star managed to get the break back three games later to level the stanza at 2-2. But Nadal broke right back for a 3-2 edge, consolidated with a hold and went on to take the tight first set 6-4.

In the second set, Djokovic ran out to a seemingly-comfortable 4-1 lead, which included his second break of the match in the fourth game. But Nadal would get the break back to pull within 3-4 and then held to event the set at 4-all.

Rain then halted play at 30-30 in the ninth game. Play resumed nearly two hours later, at 8 p.m. Djokovic ended up holding serve thanks to a backhand drop shot winner for a 6-5 lead, and he then broke Nadal when the Spaniard delivered a forehand into the net. It marked the first time Nadal lost a set at this fortnight.

"I was feeling good on the court tonight from a physical perspective, and just running all over the court and getting a lot of balls back," Djokovic said. "But as you could see, we played four sets for almost four hours, and anywhere against Rafa you play, you've got to be ready to perform your best and to expect the long rallies. That was the case tonight, and I was aware of that and I was ready for that. I don't think I can blame my physical situation, actually. It was all good."

Nadal won 16 of 17 points on his first serves during the third set, but he also wasted numerous break point chances. He squandered two in the fourth game, but Djokovic sent a forehand wide and faced a 3-1 deficit.

The players stayed on serve through the end of the set, although Djokovic had a brilliant save of five more break points in the seventh game. Nadal was 4- of-21 on break point tries following that game. Yet, the Spaniard's serve proved too dominant as Djokovic couldn't handle the powerful serve in the final game.


Djokovic and Nadal (Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)


(Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
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