Grand finale for Nadal

Spaniard stops Djokovic in 4 sets to complete Slam

September 14, 2010|By Diane Pucin, Tribune newspapers

NEW YORK — Rafael Nadal won his first U.S. Open championship and became the seventh man to complete a career Grand Slam on Monday night when he waited out a nearly two-hour rain delay and withstood a barrage of corner-kissing winners from Novak Djokovic.

Nadal, the No. 1 seed, beat the third-seeded Djokovic of Serbia 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court. The Spaniard won his ninth major title and at 24 years, 101 days is the third-youngest man in the Open era to win at least one Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

In a post-match ceremony, Nadal was asked if winning the title was all that he hoped.

"You know, more than what I dreamed," he said. "It's amazing to be here in this final for me. To have the trophy here in a few seconds with my hands, gonna be unbelievable."

Nadal earned his third straight major title this year, having won the French Open and Wimbledon. The second point of the final game was a nerveless volley that came after a couple of magical Djokovic shots. That gave Nadal a 30-0 lead.

Djokovic got one final chance to smile when he scored a point on a drop shot that touched the top of the net and trickled over. Nadal missed a backhand to go to 30-30.

Nadal earned his first match point with a forehand passing shot that hit the baseline and caused Djokovic to throw up his arms, then bow to Nadal.

As the crowd roared, Nadal wiped the sweat from his face and served. A short rally was finished by a Djokovic forehand that went wide.

"Would like first to congratulate Rafa and his team for amazing tournament," Djokovic said. "Right now he's the best player in the world and he absolutely deserves this title. Well done again.

"Hopefully in a couple years I'll have a chance to fight for this trophy again."

Nadal had to wait a bit for his historic win. The final scheduled for Sunday was rained out, and with the score at 4-4, 30-30 in the second set Monday, a storm again caused a delay. There had been a period in that second set when Djokovic won 11 straight points to take a 4-1 lead.

It was Djokovic who seemed rejuvenated after the break, and the people who remained in the stadium were rewarded with a display of extreme tennis from both men. They were hitting the corners everywhere.

But the effort of saving break points over and over seemed to tire Djokovic by the start of the fourth set. Nadal earned a service break in the third game by converting on his 24th break-point chance (it was the fifth conversion).

Nadal is the first left-handed player to win the U.S. Open since John McEnroe in 1984, and he is the first Spanish champion since Manuel Orantes in 1975.

The win was Nadal's 21st straight in a Grand Slam tournament. He lost only one set on the way to this championship.

dpucin@tribune.com

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