Pre-tournament favourite, Rafael Nadal, lived up to his billing and stretched his incredible record on hard courts this year to 22-0, winning his second Grand Slam title of the year and his second US Open crown on Monday night. The irrepressible Nadal beat world no.1 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a lopsided contest that for the first 2 hours and a bit looked like it could swing either way.
Nadal has had an incredible run on the American hard courts since his early exit from Wimbledon, and despite being lower ranked than Djokovic, was the slender favourite coming into Monday's title decider, having beaten the 26 year old Serb 21 times in their 36 career meetings. However, perhaps most crucially Nadal has looked better than ever on the hard courts these past few weeks, having switched from being the behind the baseline counter puncher to an aggressive finish the points early Nadal - one who was taking his opportunities to move forward and finish points quickly at the net.
Victoria Azarenka might have lost the 2013 US Open final to Serena Williams for the second straight year, but the young Belarusian has shown such tremendous maturity and improvement in her game over the last 12 months, that it is hard to look past her as the heir apparent to the women's throne once the incredible American who was on the opposite end of the court last night finally decides to call time on her career.
For the record, Williams downed Azarenka 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 in a blockbuster women's final that lasted a little under 3 hours under incredibly tough blustery conditions to claim her 5th US Open Singles title. The veteran American is undoubtedly the greatest female player of her generation, and arguably the greatest to ever play the game. Yet for 2 hours yesterday Azarenka went toe to toe with the legend, easily out-hustling the senior pro, while at times also matching her stroke for stroke.
Leander Paes won his 8th Men's Doubles Grand Slam at the 2013 US Open at the grand young age of 40! Paes playing alongside good friend Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic hammered the Austrian-Brazil duo of Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares 6-1, 6-3 in a very one sided final.
An injury to Peya before the match made it virtually impossible for the Austrian to compete effectively against the 4th ranked team, who had ousted the Bryan Brothers in the semi-finals earlier this week.
Paes and Stepanek were under a bit of pressure early on, having to save a breakpoint in the opening exchanges, but quickly found top form to race to a 5-0 lead in the first set before Peya got his team on the scoreboard. It could have proven to be a crucial hold, as it would allow the 2nd seeds the opportunity to serve ahead in the second set, but such was the nature of the contest that it didn't really matter.
On revamped super Saturday, the world’s highest ranked men staved off challenges of considerably varying natures to advance to the final of the 2013 US Open. Djokovic and Nadal will get a chance to reprise their rivalry for a 37th time on Monday following contrasting scorelines in their respective semifinals. Novak Djokovic had to battle through a 4 hour 9 minute slugfest against an inspired Stanislas Wawrinka 2-6, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 while Rafael Nadal cruised past a defiant but underwhelming Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-2 in two hours twenty minutes.
In many ways the semifinals were a battle of the heavyweights against the middle weights and it certainly played out that way between Nadal and Gasquet. Gasquet cut and thrust like a fencer, but the bullish Nadal kept landing the big blows to keep the Frenchman’s challenge at arm’s length. In the first semifinal though, Wawrinka certainly tore up the script and took on the role of heavyweight himself. Going toe to toe with the World No.1 he pushed him to the hilt and it took all of Djokovic’s exceptional ability to extricate himself from adversity to finally prevail.
The 2013 US Open women's semi-finals failed to live up to their billing as the two favourites Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka powered their way into the final without too much ado. Serena continued to be at her dominant best as she annihilated another former French Open champion, veteran Chinese star Li Na, 6-0, 6-3 to advance to her 21st Grand Slam final.
Not quite as dominant was Victoria Azarenka, who had to battle through a tight first set before romping home in the second against world no.83 Flavia Pennetta, 6-4, 6-2.
It was a day of remarkable contrasts at the US Open, with pre-tournament favourite and the hottest man on tour, Rafael Nadal, blitzing his way into the US Open semi-finals with a complete annihilation of compatriot Tommy Robredo, dishing out a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 hammering to the man who stunningly beat Roger Federer in straight sets in the previous round.
Nadal continued his unbeaten stretch on hard courts this year, taking his record to an excellent 20-0, and he will be hoping to make that 22-0 before the week is out. The opening set of his match lasted just 22 minutes, leaving one to wonder if this was really the same Robredo who beat Federer in the previous round or a mere imposter. Other fans were wondering, if Nadal did this to Robredo, imagine what he might have done to the 32 year old Swiss legend!
For a second consecutive year at the U.S. Open and the fourth time in his career, Milos Raonic reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam, but is unable to advance one round further to the quarter-finals.
The 22-year-old Canadian will have to wait to contest his first Major quarter-final after coming up just short in a four hour, 40 minute five set marathon match 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-6(9), 7-5 against Frenchman Richard Gasquet in a battle between two of the tournament’s Top 10 seeds.