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Scenes from the US Open: Nadal, Williams claim tournament victories

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Rafael Nadal, of Spain, jumps in the air after defeating Novak Djokovic, of Serbia. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rafael Nadal, of Spain, pretends to take a bite out of the championship trophy after beating Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, during the men's singles final of the 2013 US Open. Photo by Christina Santucci
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U.S. Marines unfurl an American flag during the opening ceremony. Photo by Christina Santucci
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An American flag is spread over the court of Arthur Ashe Stadium during the opening ceremony. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, returns the ball. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rafael Nadal returns the ball. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Actress Amanda Seyfried (front) is joined by Jessica Alba (r.). Photo by Christina Santucci
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TV personality Martha Stewart (c.) shakes hands with a fellow spectator. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Fan favorite Rafael Nadal prepares to serve. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, reacts to a point. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rafael Nadal, of Spain, reacts after a point. Photo by Christina Santucci
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The star-studded crowd included Ben Stiller (l.) and Sean Connery (r.). Photo by Christina Santucci
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Anna WIntour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, attends the match. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Actor Kevin Spacey sits in the stands. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Actor Alec Baldwin (r.) takes in the match with his wife Hilaria Thomas. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Former professional soccer player David Beckham watches the match. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Actors Amanda Seyfried (l.) and Justin Long watch the men's final. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rafael Nadal chases down a ball. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, pumps his fist after winning the second set. Photo by Christina Santucci
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U.S. Marines fold up the American flag at the conclusion of the opening ceremony. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rafael Nadal, of Spain, falls to the floor after defeating Novak Djokovic, of Serbia. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, (l.) hugs Rafael Nadal, of Spain, after the match. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rafael Nadal, of Spain, raises his arms in the air after beating Novak Djokovic, of Serbia. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, holds up the second place trophy after losing to Rafael Nadal, of Spain. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rafael Nadal, of Spain, holds the championship trophy after beating Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, during the men's singles final of the 2013 US Open. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Queen Sofia of Spain (r.) cheers for Rafael Nadal after he won the match. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rafael Nadal, of Spain, holds up the championship trophy after beating Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, during the men's singles final of the 2013 US Open. Photo by Christina Santucci

Rafael Nadal didn’t grace Queens with his presence at last year’s US Open because a knee injury kept him out for seven months.

He more than made up for it this year when fans got to see him at his absolute best.

A healthy No. 2 Nadal capped his second US Open tennis title with a hard-fought 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the men’s singles final Monday night at Arthur Ash Stadium. It was the 27-year-old Nadal’s 13th career Grand Slam title, putting him just one victory behind Pete Sampras for second place.

“I never thought something like this could happen — I’m so excited to be on tour trying to be competitive,” Nadal said when asked about winning after returning from injury. “But I never thought about competing for all I competed for this year.”

He fell to the ground in celebration when Djokovic hit the ball into the net for the match’s final point. While a sold-out crowd cheered inside, a man outside the stadium jumped up onto a fountain ledge in elation. Inside, celebrities like Justin Timberlake, Sean Connery, Kevin Spacey and even St. John’s men’s basketball Coach Steve Lavin watched as Nadal was handed the silver trophy.

“It’s the most emotional one of my career,” Nadal said about the title.

Nadal took control of the match in the third set. He fended off a triple break point from Djokovic to grab a 5-4 lead from which he never looked back.

“I knew that was really important to stay one break behind,” Nadal said. “If I lose the second break, then it’s over, the third set.”

Djokovic said he could feel the momentum change after Nadal rallied. He felt he rebounded from a less-than-stellar first set to play well over the next two, but was never able to make the match his.

“I had my momentum from midway in the second set to the end of the third where I was supposed to use it to realize the opportunity that was presented to me and I didn’t do it,” Djokovic said.

A day earlier, top-seeded Serena Williams brought home the women’s singles title for the second straight year by besting No. 2 Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1. Williams, 32, has won 17 Grand Slam titles in her career and moves into sixth all-time.

“It means a lot to me to have this trophy and every single trophy that I have,” Williams said.

Williams twice served for the match in the second set at 5-4 and 6-5 only to see Azarenka break her serve twice to force a third and deciding set. Williams wasn’t happy with her execution and had to calm down in a hurry.

“I thought this is outrageous that I am still out here because I had a great opportunity to win,” Williams said.

After dominating the final set, Williams jumped multiple times into the air with her fists pumping before spinning in joy. Her opponent was left shedding a few tears after an emotion match.

“She was tougher today,” Azarenka said.

Williams, who won her first of five US Open titles at the age of 17, is playing the best tennis of her life. The titles, with age, are now getting more meaningful.

“Now it’s 16 and 17,” Williams said. “It has more meaning in history as opposed to winning a few.”

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