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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.”
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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