It was not clean. It was often far from pretty. But it was as expected. More power, more pace, and more mistakes meant a win for Rafael Nadal over Novak Djokovic.
In the end, Nadal forced so many mistakes. The history of the match showed, once again, that it is easier to lose the match than to win it. And that despite being nearly even in winners, the man with the fewest unforced errors usually wins nine times out of ten.
On this night, many in the past, and still more to come in the future, it was Nadal who made the fewest mistakes. Nadal had more unforced errors in only the second set, the one he lost. In the others, especially the fourth set, his advantage was overwhelming.
For the first set, the second of two service breaks that Djokovic suffered was all Nadal needed to work free for a 6-4 victory. The set was played with some tension, with Novak Djokovic playing tentatively and with more mistakes as the set ended.
The start of the second set seemed to be going more Djokovic's way at the outset. In the second game, Djokovic took Nadal to deuce. And then came the third game. Pounding the ball, he brought the game to 30 all. Then he moved the score in sets to 4-1, placing pressure on the Nadal's corners especially with his forehand. The crowd sensed that Djokovic would take that one too. But then, suddenly, it was 4-2. And with Djokovic facing deuce several times, Nadal finally broke through evening the set 4-4.
At this point, the second set seemed destined for Nadal. Yet his unforced errors increased and Djokovic raised his game at the same time. It ended at 7-5 Djokovic.
By the middle of the third set the string of Djokovic errors that eventually gave Nadal the set had begun. Nadal's surgery on the court in the third set and into the fourth began to carve Djokovic into pieces at the same time. In one point, Nadal returned two forehands from the baseline in rapid succession that fit the ball precisely inside the far baseline and sidelines on either side of Djokovic's side of the court. That play seemed to stand out as the turning point in the match. No other player could have made those shots. Perhaps ever.
Then came the end. And Nadal finally has his first U.S. Open Men's Championship.
The break point statistics were the most amazing of all. Djokovic faced twenty-six break points, and refused to fold in an astounding twenty of them.
Yet the very fact of so many break points spoke more about this match than anything else. Djokovic faced constant pressure in his service games. And this pressure eventually did Djokovic in.
There was much to admire in Djokovic's play. His tenacity. His ability to weather adversity. And his baseline play. Indeed, Djokovic may be the second best player today in tennis, but he is clearly not the best.
Nadal, the new Career Grand Slam winner, is the best in tennis. He is also one of the best in history. The youngest to obtain the Career Grand Slam in the Open Era. And the only one currently playing who could exceed Federer's men's record number of Grand Slams.