The 2013 U.S. Open champion has been crowned, as Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in a dramatic 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 four-set thriller. The two fought until the bitter end, taking part in endless rallies and ripping off unbelievable shots from all over the court.
When it was all said and done, Nadal proved his status as the best in the world with his second career U.S. Open title.
By winning the 2013 U.S. Open, Nadal now owns 13 career Grand Slam event titles and an Olympic gold medal. Already the seventh male to win the career Grand Slam and second to win the Golden Slam, this title simply adds a new aspect of his legacy.
Nadal now moves out of a tie with the legendary Roy Emerson by winning his 13th career Grand Slam title.
Rafael Nadal: wins 13th Grand Slam title, breaks tie with Roy Emerson for 3rd-most career titles— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 10, 2013
With one more, he'll tie Pete Sampras at 14 for second all time. With four more, he'll match rival Roger Federer at 17.
Never say never.
It's easy to get caught up in Nadal's legendary legacy, and if that's the basis for your argument, you certainly have a case to make. With that being said, tennis is a revolving door with the Big Four trading the right to be known as the best in the world with each passing Grand Slam.
Who is the best player in the world?
In 2013, however, it hasn't even been close.
After winning the 2013 U.S. Open, Nadal now owns a record of 60-3 with 10 total ATP Tour titles and two Grand Slam events won. That includes his eighth career French Open crown, further establishing his legacy as the best in clay-court history.
Now, that success is shifting to hard-court surfaces.
For those keeping track, Nadal has won more ATP Tour titles than Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Djokovic combined in 2013. At this point, it's no longer a matter of expressing opinion.
Nadal being the best in the world is a statistical fact.
Prior to the 2013 U.S. Open, James Buddell of ATPWorldTour.com revealed the updated rankings for the FedEx Reliability Zone. For those unfamiliar, that's a measure of a player's career win-loss record in Grand Slam events and how many titles they've won.
Nadal is now second to Bjorn Borg with a career Grand Slam win percentage of 88.1. Not only is that rare company, but it's a testament to his greatness when one measures the anomalies of his past two Wimbledon appearances.
You know, the Wimbledon tournaments that were right after Nadal made five consecutive finals appearances at the All England Club, winning two titles. Even still, there's debate.
After Nadal won the 2013 French Open, I wrote an article claiming that Nadal had proved his status as the best in the world. The most common criticism from readers was that Nadal was a clay-court specialist who couldn't win on hard surfaces.
Nadal responded for himself, proceeding to go 22-0 during the hard-court season.
Rafael Nadal captures 2nd career US Open, 13th major title. He's 22-0 on hard courts this season. Unstoppable » http://t.co/MpxzojDW48— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 10, 2013
Nadal has also accumulated a record of 38-2 on clay courts, which is expected from the greatest French Open champion of the open era. While some will find a way to criticize his 0-1 record on grass in 2013, Nadal can counter that complaint with his two Wimbledon titles.
All in all, he's been sensational.
What this all comes down to is that 2013 has been Nadal's year, and until someone breaks his reign of terror, the Spanish superstar deserves to be recognized as the best in the world. While those type of statements are often more opinion-based than factual, this is a true exception.
The numbers don't lie: Rafa is the best in the world.