What more is there to say about Rafael Nadal’s incredible 2013? The season isn’t finished yet and he’s already won 10 titles, including the French Open and now the U.S. Open, made the final at 12 of the 13 tournaments he’s played and compiled a 60-3 record. And he didn’t start his season until February.
In defeating Novak Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a tense U.S. Open final on Monday, Nadal seems to have finally flipped the script on the Serb’s temporary domination of their rivarly. Just two years ago, Djokovic went 6-0 against Nadal, and by the end of the season the Spaniard looked completely out of answers.
When the rivalry resumed a few months later in the 2012 Australian Open final, they battled for five sets across nearly six hours and Nadal still lost. Nadal took positives from the crushing loss and said he had learned how he needs to play the man who is, at least by numbers, his chief rival. (The two have played each other 37 times, most in the Open era.)
Nadal was right. Since that loss at the Australian Open, he’s gone 6-1 against Djokovic, including three victories at Grand Slam tournaments. Two of those came over Djokovic on Nadal’s dominant surface, the clay of Roland Garros. But Monday’s four-set win over Djokovic on his favorite surface was a statement win, one that established without a doubt that Nadal is the best player in the world right now.
Some of our favorite photos from the men’s final after the jump.
Rafa waits to take the court before the match. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Djokovic’s “Gumby” defense flustered Nadal for a set and a half. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Nadal took a spill in the third set and found himself down 0-40 on his serve at 4-all. He saved all three break points, held and eventually stole the set. I guess this little nap helped. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Pro tip from Leonardo DiCaprio: The best way to stay off camera is to sit directly next to the camera. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)
It’s hard to even understand how one would ever wind up in this position on a tennis court. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
This is what “Vamos!” looks like. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
The Nadal forehand did all the damage in the first set before Djokovic was able push the Spaniard off the baseline. (Maddie Mayer/Getty Images)
On Sunday, Serena threatened to stomp out her demons on match point. Rafa opted to float away. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
I’m pretty sure I saw this on an episode of X-Files once. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Can’t a 13-time major champion weep tears of joy onto the tennis court in peace? (Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
Well, this is awkward. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Congratulations to Rafael Nadal on your hair-raising season. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)