New York - Novak Djokovic shrugged off a
back scare to defeat defending champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 6-1
to clinch the US Open on Monday, his third Grand Slam title of the year in an
epic, brutal final.
The world number one Serb, who had already
won the Australian Open before defeating Nadal at Wimbledon, racked up his 64th
win against just two losses all year.
But having been just two points from the
title in the 12th game of the third set, his dreams were almost shattered when
he dropped the set on a tiebreaker and needed a medical time-out on a strained
back muscle.Victory represented the top-seeded, 24-year-old's
fourth career Grand Slam trophy after making his breakthrough at the 2008
Nadal a 10-time Grand Slam title winner
slumped to his sixth defeat in six meetings in 2011 against Djokovic.
The red-hot Serb eventually triumphed in a
four-hour, 10-minute final featuring breathtaking shot-making, rock-solid
defence and gruelling rallies.
"US Open....it sounds unreal,"
said Djokovic, who had to save two match points to beat Roger Federer in a
"It's an incredible feeling. I've had
an amazing year. To play Rafa is always a great challenge and I hope we have
many more tough matches in the years to come."
Nadal, who faced 26 break points and was
out-hit in winners with his 32 lagging behind the champion's 55, said he is determined
to eventually overturn his losing run at the hands of Djokovic.
"I'm disappointed to lose, but Novak
has been doing unbelievable things. What he has done this year will be
impossible to repeat," said the world number two.
"We pushed our bodies to the limits, I
tried to play aggressive but he was making fantastic comebacks. I fought for
Djokovic arrived on court sporting a New
York fire department baseball cap, a gesture appreciated by the 23,000 crowd,
just a day after the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Despite the tricky, swirling breeze, Nadal
was quickly on top, breaking for a 2-0 lead before the Serb hit straight back
Djokovic fought off three more break points
in the fourth game and the Spaniard was made to pay when impressive court
coverage allowed the Serb to bury a deep forehand to break for a 3-2 advantage.A hold and another break, aided by two drop
shots which left the struggling Nadal stranded at the back of the court, had
Djokovic 5-2 ahead.
The Serb comfortably wrapped up the opener
in the eighth game -- his six game in succession -- when the second seed netted
a backhand as Djokovic again closed in for a volley.
In a carbon copy of the first set, Nadal
was 2-0 ahead in the next before a marathon third game, which lasted just over
17 minutes and included two exhausting rallies of 21 and 27 shots, was claimed
by Djokovic on a sixth break point.
He did it in real style, too, three times
retrieving the ball from the back of the court before Nadal netted a volley.
The Spaniard was becoming increasingly
irritated with his inability to sneak away from his opponent as well as
constant movement in the stands.
Djokovic held comfortably before breaking a
weary Nadal when the Spaniard served a third double fault after a fifth game
which featured another punishing rally of 28 shots.
Nadal avoided a double break in the seventh
game and his sudden, new injection of confidence pushed him to even the set at
But it was another brief respite as back
came the Serb with his sixth break of the final for 5-4 which was converted
into a two-set lead when Nadal was made to look uncharacteristically
heavy-footed as he fruitlessly tried to chase down a blistering Djokovic
In a rollercoaster third set, Djokovic
broke for 2-1, Nadal hit back for 2-2; the Serb broke again for 3-2 before
Nadal levelled again for 3-3.
Another lengthy rally, this time 31 shots,
punctuated the eighth game where Djokovic saved a break point.
The Serb then nipped to 6-5 on his 20th
break point of the final and was just two points from the title at 30-30 when
Nadal hit back to take the set to the tiebreaker through which he cruised 7/3.
Djokovic then summoned the trainer for
treatment on his back, but incredibly still managed to break for 2-0 and then
5-1 as Nadal's spirit suddenly wilted under a sustained barrage.
A razor-sharp backhand set-up match point
and the title was his with a sweeping, killer forehand.