Rafael Nadal demolished world number one Novak Djovovic in four sets to clinch his second US Open title in New York.
The 27-year-old Spaniard, who has been unbeaten on hard-court in 2013 and has lost just twice in the year, reached the final without dropping a set, eventually seeing off the breathtaking contest 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in three hours and 21 minutes.
The victory extends Nadal’s head-to-head wins over Djokovic to 22-15 as the Spaniard has now won six of their last seven meetings, including the epic French Open semi-final in June and a feisty duel in Montreal, their last hard-court showdown.
In-it-to-win-it, sums up the tenacity of the contest as both players partook in a 54-shot marathon rally in the second set with Djokovic up 4-2 at break point, it was a sight to behold for the 23,000 spectators gathered at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“Playing against Novak is always a very special feeling and nobody brings my game to the limit like Novak does,” Rafa said after the match.
“I’m very emotional. All my team knows how much this match today means to me.”
Nadal won the first set comfortably before his 26-year-old opponent could found his feet and his game, but then re-enforced to take the third and decider. 12 titles from 13 finals, two Grand Slams in 2013 and his 13th career Grand Slam title, history will pay homage to the Spaniard’s competitive genius.
Nadal, who won and lost on the same stage against Djokovic (the man with which he has succeeded in establishing a record rivalry of the Open era) in 2010 and 2011, cruised past the Serb with two break points to win the first set in 42 minutes.
But Djokovic fancied out his own stamina with some superb forehand play while keeping up with tournament-long ability to return serves, in the second set.
Nadal’s serves was broken three times in succession, including the 54-shot rally which ended when the Majorcan sliced one into the net.
Djokovic raced into a 2-0 lead in the third set before Nadal started digging in and, after two hours and 17 minutes both players were tied at 3-3; it looked as if the momentum was firmly with the Serbian when he earned three break points at 4-4.
Nadal refused to give in, struck from the leftfield, launched into a return game at 5-4 to earn set point.
Nadal delightfully took the lead in the deciding set and after Djokovic had saved an early break point with a net cord, the 2nd seed crunched another forehand on his next opportunity. Djokovic sailed a lazy backhand long and wide to fall 5-1 behind, at which point Nadal realised he was going to serve for his second US Open title.
The Spaniard made no mistake with before his opponent netted. The victorious Nadal crashed to the concrete on winning his second Grand Slam of 2013.
“Congratulations, you are an amazing player having an amazing career,” Nadal addressed Djokovic. “I’m sure you will finish your career being one of the best in history.
“Best of luck to you and your team for the rest of the year and the year’s ahead.”