Rafael Nadal celebrated his second US Open title on Monday night at Flushing Meadows with a battling 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, improving to a perfect 22-0 record on hard courts this season.
The 27-year-old Spaniard, who claims his 13th major title from 18 finals, now stands just one triumph behind Pete Sampras on the all-time Grand Slam titles list and four back of leader Roger Federer.
Nadal had missed last year’s US Open due to a knee injury, and called it “very, very emotional” to return and win the title. “Probably only my team knows how much [today’s match] means for me,” he said during the trophy presentation. “Playing against Novak always is a very special feeling. Probably nobody brings my game to that limit like Novak did.”
With his 10th title and 60th match win of the season, Nadal further strengthens his lead over Djokovic in the battle for the year-end No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking. Both players have already qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, to be held in November at The O2.
Nadal earns a total of $3.6 million, including $1 million in bonus prize money for winning the 2013 Emirates Airline US Open Series Bonus Challenge. He is the first player since Andy Roddick in 2003 to complete the summer hard-court hat-trick by winning the Coupe Rogers, the Western & Southern Open and the US Open.
The Mallorcan, who returned to action in February after a seven-month absence, had begun his hard-court campaign in March by winning theBNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
This was the sixth Grand Slam final meeting between Nadal and Djokovic, and third in the US Open championship match. Nadal won in 2010 to complete the career Grand Slam, and Djokovic won the following year. Both of those matches were also decided in four sets.
The rivals were facing off for an Open Era record 37th time, surpassing the mark previously set by Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe. Nadal extended his lead in their FedEx Head2Head to 22-15 with his third straight win over the Serbian.
Djokovic, this year’s Australian Open champion, was looking to win his seventh Grand Slam title. He was contesting his fourth straight US Open final and fifth overall (1-4).
“He was too good. He definitely deserved to win this match today and this trophy,” he said. “It’s obviously disappointing to lose a match like this, but again it was a huge privilege and honour to be fighting for this trophy.”