Novak Djokovic cemented his position as the best tennis player in the world currently as he defeated Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1. In an intense final that belied the scoreline, the Serb exacted sweet retribution reversing the result from last year to capture his first US Open crown. The win gave Djokovic his third slam, 10th title and took his win-loss to an incredible 64-2 in 2011. Djokovic's primeval scream at the end signified how much the win meant to him and he suggested as much post match, â€œIt's an incredible feeling. It's an absolute pleasure to be one of the few players to have won this trophyâ€. Nadal was understandably disappointed after the match, but was appreciative of Novak's display saying â€œI lost a lot of finals against him. He is doing great things this yearâ€.
It isn't often that a match with this kind of scoreline is elevated to the status of a classic. But when 4 sets take over four hours, when a game lasts an average of 7 minutes and when nearly every point sees an intensity that stretches the players to and beyond their limits, it deserves to be exalted to those realms. For Novak Djokovic, it was a case of using all that he had gained from a year of dominance. The bedrock of confidence bred from these triumphs manifested itself in his willingness to be the aggressor from the outset; his 5 prior wins over his opponent made Nadal tentative enough for Djokovic to take control; and the combination of the two ensured that when push came to shove at the fag end, Djokovic had that deep seated belief to overcome the last flurry of punches that Nadal flung at him. From Nadal's point of view, while the loss must rankle and hurt, his display of unbridled aggression in the latter half of the third set must give him something to work with as he continues his quest to find the answer to the juggernaut that is Djokovic.
The matches between the two this year, have been true clashes of the heavyweights and that's exactly the way they started the final today. Both men pummelled the hapless fuzzy yellow ball with tons of topspin as they probed and prodded to gain the upper hand in the exchanges. What was striking was Djokovic's clear inclination to be the aggressor in these rallies. The Serb used his heavy forehand to good effect while his backhand was efficient as ever in opening up Nadal wide on the forehand. Nadal this tournament has shown magnificent form with the forehand on the run, and he hit the forehand down the line as well as he has all year to counter Djokovic's backhand. Djokovic's serve though was not giving him the free points it has all year as he struggled with his first serve percentage. Rafa took advantage of this to get off to the perfect start, breaking Djokovic on the very first try to go up 2-0. The Serb's response was swift and determined as he upped the ante on the return and broke straight back to nullify Nadal's early advantage. The Spaniard was at his doughty best as he forced the Djoker to dig deep, save 3 break points before finally restoring parity at 2-2. At this stage every game was turning into a mini set in itself taking an average of over 6 minutes a game and Djokovic was doing his bit to turn the tide in his favour. The Serb set up break point and then in a magnificent display of power, precision and dominant control ran Nadal ragged before striking a clean winner to put his nose in front at 3-2. The Serb consolidated the break to lead 4-2 and there was a visible changing of the guard. Novak was flying high and with confidence clearly surging, he broke Nadal with impunity even throwing in a couple of drop shots that left Nadal standing. Djokovic then served out the set with utter confidence holding to love to complete a sensational set 6-2 in 53 minutes.
The demoralising nature of that first set setback meant that Nadal would very quickly have to turn the corner in order to put that first set behind him. The world no.2 did well to hold serve and in general display a positive demeanour as he attempted to regain a foothold in the match. He was helped in part certainly by a drop in Djokovic's level as the Serb hit 6 unforced errors in the first 8 points to go down an early break 2-0. The third game was then a monster â€“ it lasted 17 minutes, 10 deuces and 6 breakpoints before finally Djokovic broke when Nadal netted a smash following a point that showcased the extent of the elastic Serb's defensive capabilities. These long games tend to be pivotal due to the sheer psychological energy expended and in this case the loss of that third game certainly arrested the momentum that Nadal had just begun to build following the early advantage he gained in the set. The Serbanator held to love to level the set and then once again upped the ante and wrested the initiative as Nadal double faulted to go down 2-3.
The set was now beginning to eerily resemble the first set as Djokovic slowly but surely began to dominate the Spaniard. Despite being slapped with a time violation warning, the Serb held to 4-2 and playing with a high degree of freedom again stretched Nadal on his serve. Nadal though as he's done so many times before fought his way through the tough situation and then taking advantage of a lapse in Djokovic's concentration, seized his chance levelling the set at 4-4 with a backhand pass up the line. The 9th game now became a crunch game with the set in the balance. Disappointingly and reasonably uncharacteristically, nerves got to Nadal much the way they got to him in the Wimbledon final as he hit a host of errant forehands to lose serve and restore Djokovic's advantage. The Serb didn't need a second invitation as he held with conviction to take a seemingly insurmountable 2 sets to love lead.
The third and potentially final set began in more conventional fashion as both men held serve to open proceedings. The pressure though was being placed on Nadal almost continually by Djokovic and under that scrutiny, cracking was inevitable â€“ the question being â€˜when' rather than â€˜if'. The answer came quite shortly as Djokovic just found an extra gear at the right time to break Nadal's serve for the 7th time in the match. With his back firmly to the wall, Rafa responded by swinging freely, hitting harder than he ever had at any stage earlier. It seemed to work as he drove Djokovic back off the baseline and took time away from him as well to break right back to level the set 2-2. The duo exchanged breaks once again, but Nadal looked increasingly confident as for the first time he seemed to have found a level of pace and intensity that troubled Novak.
Djokovic's game was just beginning to fray at the edges and Nadal's innate warrior rising to the challenge as the 3rd set went to the wire at 5-5. It was at this point that all the belief that Djokovic had gained over the past year came to his service. An enterprising approach and solid volley gave him break point and a marvellous backhand down the line broke Nadal's serve giving the Djoker the opportunity to serve out the match. It didn't quite turn out that way as Nadal kept battering away to force the tie-break. For Djokovic the tie-break is not the strong suite and it showed as Rafa got a foothold in the match taking the breaker 7-3.
Rafa was very much in the ascendancy at this stage and Djokovic was suffering physically as he called out the trainer to work on his back. The signs were flashing bright red for Djokovic in a match that less than half an hour ago seemed his for the taking. Incredibly, the world no.1 found a way to play around his physical issues and broke Nadal to jump out to a 3-0 lead with the finish line just ahead and in sight. The Serb was managing to play the points very efficiently, perhaps as a result of knowing he had to keep it sharp. In an unexpected reversal of fortunes, Novak broke a second time to once again serve for the match and this time he didn't make the same mistake. Novak Djokovic hit one final forehand winner before falling flat on his back as the Djoker became the new King at Flushing Meadows.
 N.Djokovic (SRB) def.  R.Nadal (ESP) 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1
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File Photograph Copyright: Dubai Open
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