Wimbledon.com's highlights from the fifteenth day of play at the 2013 US Open in Flushing Meadows, New York...
Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1
A year ago, Rafael Nadal was not at the US Open. He was fishing. Two months ago, Nadal was not at Wimbledon beyond the first day. He was fishing. And yet, the Spaniard moved a Grand Slam closer to Roger Federer's haul of 17 major titles, claiming his 13th, on his weakest surface, against every seeming odd. Yes, Nadal had come into this tournament on the back of the best hard court season of his life. He went unbeaten in Indian Wells. Again in Montreal. And again in Cincinnati. But facing Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam is always an unknown quantity. We saw it at this tournament in 2011, when Nadal couldn't get close to him. We saw it again at the Australian Open in 2012, when the pair contested one of the most terrifyingly brutal matches tennis has ever seen, their legs so spent at the end of the 5 hours and 33 minutes that they needed chairs to sit in during the trophy presentation.
Tonight's encounter was shaping up to be something similar, Nadal roaring through the first set, Djokovic grabbing the second, and then going up in the third. He would win that, Nadal would win the fourth, and then who knows what would happen in the fifth. That's what it was supposed to be anyway. Djokovic, admittedly had statistics against him from the moment Nadal claimed that first set. In the past 20 years, just one champion, Juan Martin Del Potro, in 2009, won the tournament having lost the first set.
But Nadal threw Quealy's, his favourite salty snack, at that script. From a break down in the third, the momentum firmly with Djokovic, who was showing his astonishing capacity for defence to attack, scrambling back balls as Rafa unleashed, Nadal clawed his way back, changing pace, slicing, frustrating. From 0-40 at 4-4 in the third, he clawed his way back. From 40-0 on Djokovic's serve at 5-4, he clawed his way back.
His emphatic celebration, fistpumping in his trademark lawnmower fashion while on his haunches on the baseline, showed how crucial he knew it was.
And it broke Djokovic's spirit. Where he had been ripping winners, 46 of them in total, with abandon, the 56 unforced errors became the more pertinent stat. Nadal, by contrast, managed just 27 winners, but, tellingly, kept his unforced errors down to 20 over four sets. And this was in rallies which regularly exceeded 11 shots. The craziest of which was a 54-shot spectacular which yielded a standing ovation from the Arthur Ashe crowd.
"He was too good, he definitely deserved to win this match today and this trophy," Djokovic said. "Obviously disappointing to lose a match like this, but it was a huge privilege and honour to be fighting for it, one of the most prestigious in our sport."
"Probably only my team knows how much [this] means for me. It's unbelievable" said Nadal. "Probably no one brings my game to the limit the way that Novak did. I am sure that he will finish his career being one of the best in the sport."
Episode 37 went Rafa's way, and Nadal moves to 13 Grand Slam singles titles. That he can survive his physical frailties, provided he takes time out to recover, seems abundantly clear, two Slams in a season tell you that. But we won't have seen the last of Djokovic either. "I'm still 26, and I believe best time for my career is about to come. I feel that. I believe that," he said. You can count on that too.
Villain of the day
The two fans who shouted out during a point, and were promptly ejected from the stands. Uncle Toni was not happy.
This time last year, Nadal was fishing.
Quote of the day
"Outside of the court I try to sign everybody. I try to make the photos. I act like a normal person (smiling)."
Spotted in the stands
Sean Connery, David Beckham, Alec Baldwin, the King and Queen of Spain, Josh Groban, Edward Norton, Martha Stewart. And many more.
Tweet of the day
@johnisner What's the big deal? I play 54-shot rallies all the time :)
Stats of the day
Nadal finishes the year in which he turned 27 with 13 majors. In 2008 when Roger Federer turned 27 he also won his 13th major...
By winning the US Open together this year, Serena Williams and Nadal have now won all four Slams together (Australian Open 2009, French Open 2013, Wimbledon 2010, US Open 2013).
Come back tomorrow for
Nothing! Thus ends Grand Slam tennis for the year. But there are still several major ATP and WTA tournaments on the way over the next three months. Tennis doesn't stop for long.
For all the reports and results from Flushing Meadows, visit the Official US Open website
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all