Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Novak Djokovic for the U.S. Open Championship.
While Rafael Nadal found glory in his first appearance in a U.S. Open finale, Novak Djokovic rediscovered the pain of a crushing loss, losing in four sets, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
The victory capped off an amazing year for Nadal, who won at Wimbledon and the French Open earlier this year.
The championship was also a milestone triumph, making Nadal only the seventh player in history to win each Grand Slam tournament at least once.
It was also the first time a player has won in Paris, London and New York in one season since Rod Laver accomplished the feat in 1969.
For the third-seeded Djokovic, the evening was a tremendous letdown after a redeeming win over second-seeded Roger Federer in the semifinals. Djokovic was eliminated by Federer in the semifinals in the last two years, including a loss in the 2007 finals to the Swede.
Many believed Djokovic, ranked No. 2 in the world, had an excellent shot at ending Nadal's 20-match winning streak, especially after rain delayed the final Sunday, allowing Djokovic valuable resting time following his grueling semifinals battle.
Unfortunately, Nadal was resting too.
The three-hour, 43 minute match was an exciting display of two of tennis' top competitors, as extensive rallies and technical shots triggered many cheers from the crowd. Chair umpire Steve Ulrich addressed the stands as early as the second game.
While the 24-year-old Nadal reminded onlookers of his elite athletic status with grueling points, Djokovic appeared winded as early as the second set. A rain delay with the score at 4-4 in the second set provided the Serb a second fortuitous re-energizing period.
Returning to the courts, Djokovic won three more games to win the second set 7-5, including a highlight-worthy baseline shot. It was the first set Nadal has lost during his nearly perfect two weeks of competition in New York.
As the energy settled into the third set, Nadal's talent began to shine through, as Djokovic was consistently baffled by the Spaniard's relentless returns.
Nadal's tenacious defense in the deep court coupled with his precision hitting forced Djokovic into 47 unforced errors; a number of which occurred in the third set, as the No. 1 seed went up 2-1.
Djokovic retaliates in the fourth set, going up 1-0 and smashing a forehand return which Nadal cannot reach. Crowd chants in favor of Djokovic are quickly silence by a Nadal ace, which evened the score at 1-1.
The next four games are pure Nadal, as an array of baseline shots began to reveal the inevitable.
Djokovic pridefully won one more game to bring the fourth set score to 5-2, before Nadal seals the championship with a willful forehand drive that was too fast for Djokovic.
The U.S. Open Championship will undoubtedly put a stamp on one of the finest single seasons in tennis history for Nadal.
A January trip to the Australia Open will give Nadal a chance to become the first player to win four consecutive Grand Slam titles since Laver's achievement in 1969.
The win improves Nadal's record to 9-2 in all-time in Grand Slam finals, while Djokovic drops to 1-2.