Rafael Nadal wins 2nd U.S. Open title

TENNIS US OPEN/MEN'S FINAL

Spain's Rafael Nadal bites his U.S. Open winner's trophy in celebration. Nadal won this Grand Slam event for the second time with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Monday night's final. EFE
Spain's Rafael Nadal bites his U.S. Open winner's trophy in celebration. Nadal won this Grand Slam event for the second time with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Monday night's final. EFE

— Spain's Rafael Nadal had to wait three years and overcome a serious knee injury but he captured his second U.S. Open title with a 62, 36, 64, 61 victory here over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

With his win Monday night on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 27yearold tennis great notched his 13th Grand Slam title, thirdmost alltime behind Roger Federer (17) and Pete Sampras (14).

He also extended his undefeated run this year on hard courts once considered his worst surface to 22 matches.

Nadal got good mileage in the first set out of his highbouncing topspin forehand and also changed the pace of his shots effectively, frustrating Djokovic into errors that led to service breaks in the third and seventh games.

The Serbian turned things around, however, and enjoyed his best run of the match between the end of the second set and the start of the third, a stretch that saw him tie the contest at a set apiece and then grab a 20 lead in the third set.

Despite being outplayed, Nadal kept the third set close and was rewarded when Djokovic surrendered the servicebreak lead with a missed backhand in the sixth game.

The turning point in the match then occurred when the Spaniard found himself in a major jam when serving at 44.

Djokovic won three points in a row one of them when Nadal slipped and fell to the ground to put his opponent in a 040 hole, but the world No. 2 came storming back thanks to a forehand winner on the first break point and an ace at 3040, and he eventually held serve.

The missed opportunity took a mental toll on Djokovic while Nadal, who blasted a forehand downtheline winner to break serve in the next game, rode the momentum shift to a twosettoone lead.

There would be no more swings of the pendulum, as the Spaniard broke serve in the first game of the fourth set and cruised to the title against his increasingly frustrated opponent.

An elated Nadal fell onto his back in celebration when the Serbian, whose form fluctuated wildly during the match, sent one last forehand into the net for his 53rd unforced error.

The crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium, including Spain's Queen Sofia, showed Nadal their appreciation by giving him a standing ovation.

"It was disappointing that I dropped the third set, even though I felt like especially in first four, five games I was the one who was, you know, dictating the play," Djokovic said in the postmatch press conference.

"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," the 26yearold, sixtime Grand Slam champion added.

The Spaniard, meanwhile, looked back on the entire season and called it "probably the most emotional one in my career," alluding to his return to the circuit after a long layoff due to injury.

"I felt I did everything right to have my chance here. So you know you play one match against one of the best players of the history as is Novak and No. 1 in the world on probably his favorite surface. So I know I have to be almost perfect to win," he said.

Nadal reflected on the pivotal third set, saying that "at the end of the second, beginning of the third Novak was playing just amazing ... it was really important stay only one break behind ... so I tried to be there, keep fighting."

He also referred to the escape from the 040 deficit in the ninth game of that set as "really amazing" and "one of the key moments of that match."

With the victory, the Spaniard improved his overall record against Djokovic to 2215 (the two players set an Open Era record Monday for most matches between two men) and evened up his mark against the Serb in Grand Slam finals at 33.

Three of those major finals have come at the U.S. Open, with Nadal winning in 2010 and Djokovic coming out on top the following year.

The Spaniard collected $2.6 million in prize money for winning the tournament and also pocketed an additional $1 million for having won the U.S. Open Series, a group of North American hardcourt events leading up to Flushing Meadows.

Nadal has made an extraordinary comeback this year from a knee injury that had kept him out of action for several months in 2012.

He has won 10 titles this season, including the U.S. Open and his eighth French Open championship, and is close to recovering the No. 1 ranking, although Djokovic held on to the top spot for the time being by reaching the final.