Photo: Paul ZimmerRafael Nadal (ESP)
Rafael Nadal mastered Novak Djokovic over four sets in a gripping final to claim his second US Open title in New York and 13th Grand Slam title overall.
The 27-year-old Spaniard, who now sits behind only Roger Federer (17) and Pete Sampras (14) for Grand Slam titles won, had too much for the world No. 1 in a dramatic edge-of-the-seat battle, winning 62 36 64 61 in three hours and 21 minutes to extend his hard court record to a remarkable 22-0 in 2013.
"Having this success is amazing," said Nadal. "I never expected it. That's life and I'm lucky to have what I'm having. I really love the competition, I really love the sport. All my career I dreamed to be involved in matches like today. I enjoy every moment.
"These things are not forever. In a few years I won't have this chance. I try my best, I have passion and that's all I can do."
Rarely does Djokovic enter any match as the underdog but such was Nadal’s form going into the final he was the second favourite for many from the start.
After a ruthless opening set from Nadal, the size of the task in front of the Serb was further illustrated by a 54-shot rally in the second set, the longest of the tournament by an incredible 20 shots. Djokovic finally won the point, and with it a break to go 4-2 up in the set when Nadal netted a half-volley from the baseline, raising his hands aloft in triumph at the physical and mental resolve it took simply to win a point.
Djokovic stepped up the attack for the remainder of the set to draw things level, but when Nadal eked out a thrilling third set the life seemed to drain from Djokovic, who fell away in the fourth as Nadal won his 10th title from 12 finals this year.
"All of my team knows how much this match today means to me," added Nadal. "Playing against Novak is always a very special feeling and nobody brings my game to the limit like he does."
Djokovic, meanwhile, proved typically sporting in defeat, despite losing his second straight major final having also lost to Andy Murray at Wimbledon.
“In the end of the day I have to be satisfied with the final, even though I would have loved to win this match tonight. But it was obvious that in the important moments he played better tennis, and that's why he deserved to win. I congratulate him, and I move on,” said Djokovic, who faces a fight to keep hold of his No. 1 ranking.
“He won so much this year,” he added. “I'm still No. 1 of the world in the rankings, but year to year he's far, far ahead, and he has much more chances to end up as No. 1.
“There is still tournaments to go. So we'll see. I just try to prepare myself for China.”