NEW YORK, September 14 – World number one Rafael Nadal completed a career Grand Slam title sweep on Monday by capturing his first US Open crown, defeating Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.The 24-year-old Spanish left-hander overwhelmed Djokovic with uncanny shotmaking to win the 1.7 million-dollar top prize as well as his third consecutive Grand Slam crown and his ninth Grand Slam title overall.
Nadal became the seventh man to complete a career Grand Slam sweep, joining Roger Federer, Andre Agassi, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver, Don Budge and Fred Perry in having won Wimbledon and the US, French and Australian Open titles.
Showers pushed the final to Monday for the third year in a row and halted the match for one hour and 48 minutes, but rain only delayed Nadal’s reign on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts despite losing his lone set of the fortnight.
A ninth Slam title moved Nadal alone into seventh on the all-time list, pssing Agassi, Perry, Ken Rosewall and Ivan Lendl and moving only seven shy of Federer’s all-time record, three crowns ahead of Federer’s Slam-title pace.
After winning Wimbledon and the French Open earlier this year, Nadal joined Federer, Laver and Pete Sampras as the only men to win three Slams in a row in the Open Era that began in 1968.
Nadal, third-youngest on the Slam sweep list, would join Laver and Budge as the only men to hold all four Slam crowns at once by winning the 2011 Australian Open.
No Spanish man had won the US Open title since Manuel Orantes in 1975 and the only other Spanish US Open champion was Manuel Santana in 1965. Not since John McEnroe in 1984 had a left-hander had won the US Open men’s title.
Nadal was broken only five times in the tournament, matching the mark for fewest broken serves by a US Open men’s champion set by Andy Roddick in 2003.
Djokovic, whose lone Grand Slam title came at the 2008 Australian Open, had won his three prior matches against Nadal, all on hardcourts, but has still never defeated the Spaniard in a final or at a Grand Slam event.
Nadal improved to 9-2 in Slam finals, his only losses coming to Federer at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2007, and 15-7 lifetime against Djokovic, who could not combat the top seed’s relentless performance.
After dropping a set for the first time in the tournament, Nadal responded with exceptional shotmaking in the third set, breaking Djokovic for a 2-1 lead when the Serb sent a forehand wide.
Djokovic fought off three break points in the fifth game and five more in an epic seventh game as each man fired impressive shots time and again, those who stayed through the rain giving both men a standing ovation after Djokovic held.
Nadal held twice more to claim the third set, forced Djokovic to save a break point to open the fourth set and then broke Djokovic in the third game, his forehand winner setting up a break that came when the Serb’s forehand hit the net cord and landed beyond the baseline.
Djokovic netted a forehand to surrender a break that handed Nadal a 4-1 lead but the speedy Serb kept fighting and had a break chance in the sixth game, missing long with a forehand, before Nadal held to reach the brink of history.
Nadal swatted a forehand on the baseline to reach match point and the magical moment came after three hours and 43 minutes when Djokovic hit a forehand wide.
The Spaniard put his face in his hands and fell to the ground on his back, then rolled over and savored the moment. After receiving congratulations from Djokovic at the net, Nadal dropped to his knees on the court and raised his hands in victory.
Nadal fired a forehand winner to break Djokovic in the opening game of the match, but Djokovic answered by breaking back to 2-2, the Spaniard swatting a forehand wide to surrender his serve for only the third time in the tournament.
Djokovic, who will rise to second in the world rankings, denied Nadal on five break points in the fifth game but succumbed on the sixth, the Serb smashing his racket in anger after Nadal’s serve-swiping winner.
Nadal held his serve from there to claim the first set, an ominous note for Djokovic as the Spanish star was 107-1 in prior Grand Slam matches when winning the first set and 91-0 when taking the first two sets.
His urgency aroused, Djokovic broke Nadal at love for a 3-1 lead in the second set but saw his lead erased in a pivotal seventh game, Nadal denying him on two game points then firing a forehand winner on his third break chance.
The second set was at 4-4 with Djokovic serving at 30-all after one hour and 41 minutes of play when rains returned to Arthur Ashe Stadium, halting the match for one hour and 48 minutes.
When play resumed, Djokovic battled through deuce three times before holding to 5-4, then broke Nadal to claim the second set, the Spaniard spraying a backhand wide and netting a forehand for his first lost set of the tournament.