Rafael Nadal delivered a masterful performance on Sunday, capturing his 16th Grand Slam title with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over Kevin Anderson in the U.S. Open final, his second major title of the year and another confirmation that 2017 belonged to he and Roger Federer.
“It’s been a great two weeks,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference. “Increasing level of tennis, increasing level of confidence during that two weeks. I have the trophy with me again here in New York. It means a lot to me. There is no better way tro finish the Grand Slam season for me after a very emotional season in all aspects.”
While much of the tennis world was disappointed to not get the elusive Nadal-Federer showdown in New York, Nadal was laser-focused in his semifinal and final showdown this past weekend. Despite dropping the opening set to Juan Martin del Potro, the man who upset Federer in the quarterfinals, Nadal won 18 of the next 23 games against the Argentine to reach the final.
He then faced off with Anderson, a huge server who was playing lights out tennis all-tournament long. But it was first Grand Slam final, and this Nadal’s 23rd. The Spaniard was not to be denied, and it showed early. He consistently got deep into Anderson’s service games, standing way back behind the baseline to the point where you could not see him on the television broadcast.
He broke four times in nine chances and never faced a break point of his own.
“I think I played the right match, the match that I have to play,” Nadal said. “I put a lot of balls in. I let him play all the time, and that was my goal; try to have long rallies, try to have long points because he will try to play short.
The first set was important for me. After a lot of games that he had chances to lose his serve. He was holding and he finally missed that forehand at three-all. That changed the rest of the match.”
The title is just the latest in a resurgent 2017 campaign for Nadal. The 31-year old has posted a record of 56-9 and has won five titles, two of which were Grand Slams. Even Nadal could not have predicted this a year ago when he was suffering from injuries.
“It’s something difficult to imagine eight or nine months ago that we will be winning two Grand Slams each,” Nadal said of he and Federer’s success this year. “But here we are, and can just say thanks to life for that opportunity. I think I did the right work, I believed in the work…I wake up every morning with the passion to go on court and to try to improve things. That’s probably why I still have chances to compete in this sport and to do it well.”
With 16 Grand Slam titles now, Nadal trails Federer by three for the all-time record, and while most of the reporters and press wanted to ask about the rivalry between the two, Nadal said he tries to pay no mind to the comparisons.
“I really never thought much about it. I just do it my way. He does his way. Let’s see when we finish,” he said. “I really don’t think much about these kinds of things. As I said before, I do my way. I’m very happy with all the things that are happening to me, to win this title again. I have this trophy with me.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org