It’s still Novak Djokovic’s world! Just an hour ago Djokovic finished off his 2011 Grand Slam season in perfect style capturing his first career US Open title with a grueling 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1 win over rival and defending champion Rafael Nadal.
If you’ve seen their prior battles this year, today’s final was more of the same. Head-scratching rallies, wild angles, marathon points, 15+ minute games, slow tension-building play and mostly breathtaking wonderment.
Djokovic was just too strong for Rafa early on seizing the first two sets, but it was no where as easy as indicated by the score. Djokovic then had a chance to serve for the match in the third at 6-5 but let it slip. Nadal capitalized, won the ensuing tiebreak and suddenly, with Djokovic receiving treatment on his back it looked like the outcome was far from over, in fact maybe tipping in favor of a fired-up Nadal.
But in blur, Djokovic recharged and rushed a tired-looking Rafa 6-1 in the final set to win his fourth career Grand Slam title.
“It really sounds unreal, it’s an incredible feeling. I had an amazing year and it keeps going,” Djokovic said after the 4-hour, 10-minute slugfest. “Every time I play Rafa it’s a big challenge. I want to congratulate him on a great tournament again. I wish that we will have many more tough matches in the upcoming years. It’s an absolute pleasure to be a part of the very few players that have won this trophy throughout history.”
And he’s one of a very few players to have a season like this. Ten titles, 64-2 record and three Slams. And after cracking that forehand return winner down match point Saturday against Roger Federer, it was indeed destiny.
What strikes me is Djokovic just outlasted Federer in five sets on Saturday and today he reduced Rafa to resignation and exhaustion. Just amazing from a guy a year ago who was so brittle,
For Nadal, it was his sixth straight loss to Djokovic, and honestly it doesn’t appear that he’s any closer to solving the Joker riddle.
“Obviously I’m disappointed,” said Nadal. “This guy is doing unbelievable things, so I just want to congratulate Novak. What he did this year is probably impossible to repeat. I tried my best in every moment.
“These kind of matches are very difficult, they bring your body to the limit,” Nadal added. “I think I tried to play aggressive, but he always made a fantastic comeback. I’m happy about what I did. I ran to every ball. I fought until the last ball. This year I’ve lost a lot of finals against him. I have to accept I won a lot in the past and the only thing I can do is to try my best every day to keep improving.”
Against Djokovic, I think Nadal has to improve his serve, especially his second. We saw Djokovic again pounce on Nadal’s second delivery. And when Djokovic was serving in the fourth at 3/4 pace, Nadal was content to just return it back into play instead of go on the offensive. Those are two areas Nadal needs to address against this new version of Novak. Otherwise more losses are to come.
The two are about even from the ground and in terms of speed – Djokovic’s backhand really nullifies the Nadal heavy forehand-to-backhand exchange. The difference really comes in the serve and return of serve – Djokovic broke Nadal 11 times!
And what a difference a year makes not just for Novak for the landscape of tennis. Twelve months ago were talking about Nadal, his dominance and the possibility of a “Rafa Slam”. Just look how quickly things change. Now it’s Novak’s turn.
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