Rafael Nadal Wins U.S. Open Championship

The Spaniard's 13th Grand Slam title caps a remarkable return from injury and 2013 season

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Julio Cortez / AP

Nadal falls to the court after defeating Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal defeated longtime rival Novak Djokovic to win the 2013 U.S. Open title in four sets 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 on a brisk night in Flushing, N.Y. The victory marks Nadal’s second U.S. Open title and 13th Grand Slam championship.

Nadal, who now holds a 22-15 lifetime record against Djokovic, took control of the three-hour, 21-minute match early, breaking Djokovic twice in the first set. Djokovic, coming off a four-hour five-set marathon in his semifinal match against Stanislas Wawrinka on Saturday, struggled to find a rhythm in the swirling winds at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Nadal appeared too poised and too relentless for the 26-year-old Serb. But Djokovic fought back in the second set, rallying the New York crowd behind him and playing the same brand of tennis that earned him his U.S. Open championship over Nadal in 2011. He won an incredible 54-shot rally that brought every fan in the stadium to their feet and turned the tables on Nadal.

That momentum carried over into the third set, where Djokovic earned an early break over the 27-year-old Spaniard. Though Nadal was able to break back later in that set, Djokovic held the upper hand when Nadal served at 4-4. Djokovic earned triple break point—one more winner and he would have served for a 2-1 set lead—but Nadal proved too tough, battling back to hold serve before breaking Djokovic in the very next game to win the third set.

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In the fourth, Djokovic simply had nothing left. Nadal broke him twice before holding serve at 5-1 to close out the championship. Perhaps the most tellingly, Djokovic nearly tripled Nadal’s unforced errors, committing 53 to Nadal’s 20. Nadal also dominated on break points, closing out seven of 12, while Djokovic managed to convert on just three of 11 chances.

The win caps a triumphant Grand Slam season for Nadal, who began the season injured and was unable to play in the year’s first major in Australia. He fell to fifth in the ATP rankings. Since then, he’s had a remarkable run. Nadal now stands at 60-3 for the year, and is an undefeated 22-0 on hard courts. As if that weren’t enough, he’ll also take over from Djokovic the world’s No. 1 ranking. By now, there is no doubt: Rafa reigns once more.