NEW YORK – Rafael Nadal fell to the court once. Then he stood up. Then he fell down again. Maybe they were separate tumbles for each of his U.S. Open titles.
Nadal, the popular 27-year-old Spaniard, decisively defeated No. 1-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 to win his second U.S. Open title and his 13th Grand Slam tournament championship.
“Very, very emotional, no?” said Nadal, who missed this event last year because of knee problems. “Probably only my team knows how much this means for me.”
The consensus Monday night was that Nadal’s victory means he is the player of the year in men’s tennis, even though the No. 2-ranked player is unlikely to dislodge Djokovic from the top spot in the ATP computer rankings.
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Djokovic had won the season’s first Slam event, the Australian Open, in January, beating Andy Murray in the final. Nadal won his eighth French Open title in June. Four weeks later, Murray won at Wimbledon — where Nadal shockingly lost in the first round.
Monday’s triumph made Nadal the only man with two major titles this year. And with 13 overall, he is one behind Pete Sampras, whose 14 majors rank second all time behind Roger Federer’s 17.
Nadal came into the final with a 21-0 record on hard courts this year. He also was 21-15 in his career against the 26-year-old Djokovic before Monday. However, the Serb won four of their previous five matches played on hard courts.
In other words, there was little to choose between the two best players in the world.
“I want to congratulate Rafa and his team,” Djokovic said. “He was too good. Obviously disappointing to lose a match like this. I’ll be definitely coming back next year.”
Nadal earned $2.6 million. And, as was the case for Serena Williams a day earlier, he earned an extra $1 million for winning the summer series of hardcourt events.
After Djokovic had played a punishing five-set semifinal against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland on Saturday, it seemed that whatever advantage there was to be had might belong to Nadal, whose semifinal was a routine three-setter over Richard Gasquet of France.
But for the first time in Open history, the men’s final was deliberately scheduled on Monday night, giving the participants a rest day.
The change was made after much complaining from the men who, in this major only, had to play the semifinals on Saturday and the final Sunday.