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Nadal topples Djokovic for U.S. Open title, Williams dominant

Photo by: Henoc Kivuye


Rafael Nadal fell backwards, and as he fell, it seemed the rest of the match fell to pieces with him.

The Spaniard collected himself however, fending off Novak Djokovic long enough to win his second U.S. Open title in a knockdown, drag-out fight against the world’s No. 1-ranked player 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

On the women’s side, the U.S. Open did not hold many surprises. Few players stretched matches to three sets, and the general atmosphere favored a final between world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and longtime force Serena Williams.

Senior Dwayne Wiseman – an avid tennis player of nearly ten years – noted a match between the two would be close, but ultimately fall to Serena.

“[Serena] seems to turn on the heat when it’s a Grand Slam final,” Wiseman said. “I think she’ll be motivated by that Cincinnati loss [to Azarenka]… It’ll be an entertaining match, but I think it’ll be team Serena.”

After blazing their way through the first rounds and semifinals with only slight hiccups in between, Wiseman got his wish.

Serena struggled to find her footing in the first set, while Azarenka took advantage of the opportunity and pushed the advantage, keeping Serena off-balance until the second set, where the American pulled an early 4-1 lead. Azarenka dug in her heels, however, and sealed the tiebreak to force a decisive third set. Serena found her zone at that point, and pushed Azarenka aside for a 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 victory to once again hold aloft the U.S. Open trophy.

The men’s path to the finals proved smoother than either player could have anticipated – the big names who consistently performed in recent tournaments either left in early upsets or found themselves outplayed by half-forgotten names like Frenchman Richard Gasquet or Spaniard Tommy Robredo.

The two played a central role in the showdown between Nadal and Djokovic, unexpectedly clearing the brackets of such notable opponents as Roger Federer and recent Wimbledon champion Andy Murray. Federer’s loss came as an inevitable fact to senior Denae Lee, however.

“He’s still really good and all, but I was looking at some stats on Nadal and the average speed of the serves and stuff is ridiculous,” Lee said. “When you get older you just don’t have that strength, and you do have to step aside as such, physically.”

Though he may not be the dominating force he once was, Lee recognized Federer remains dangerous.

“Now he could get in there and still mentally tear you apart,” Lee said. “But the old dogs still have tricks up their sleeves if the young dogs don’t pay attention.”

Robredo pulled what could be argued as the most astounding upset of the tournament with his 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Federer, long-hailed as some combination of Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl and René Lacoste reincarnate. Nadal handled his fellow Spaniard easily enough, bringing him up against dark horse Gasquet. The Frenchman showed unexpected spirit in deposing the fourth-seeded David Ferrer. Ultimately, Gasquet folded beneath pressure from the world No. 2 as Nadal clinched the victory 6-4, 7-6, 6-2, securing his spot in the finals.

Djokovic had an easier time moving through the bracket, finding no real competition until his match against Swiss native Stanislas Wawrinka. Wawrinka shocked the tennis world with his seemingly effortless victory over Scotsman Andy Murray in straight sets. He put up a similar fight against Djokovic, pushing the Serb to five sets and exhausting his seemingly limitless reserve of endurance. Djokovic stood triumphant at the end of the day though, and immediately began preparing for the coming final. Freshman Caleb McGaha, a former state champion in doubles and a player for nearly seven years, saw Federer’s exit and the unusual amount of upsets as part of a unique U.S. Open.

“I think [Federer] has got some unrealistic expectations at this point,” McGaha said. “He’s getting on up there in years. He’s a good player still, but you can’t keep playing perfect forever. It’s just been a really shocking tournament.”

The Monday showdown started in moderate 78-degree weather. Right out of the gate Djokovic settled into a rhythm, content to watch Nadal muscle ball after ball over the net, picking his moment to strike.

This counterpunch strategy paid dividends the first couple games; Nadal picked up the pace and took command of the third game with a few overwhelming forehands for which the Serb had no answer. The first set concluded with Nadal setting every bit of the game’s tempo, posting a commanding 6-2 win punctuated by weighty topspin forehands and a few punishing overheads.

The second set found Djokovic still barely holding onto his waiting strategy. It seemingly paid off after the Serb outlasted Nadal in a tense 54-shot rally that electrified the crowd.

Any momentum Djokovic gained he immediately lost, dropping two errors to give Nadal a brief lead. At 4-3 in the second set something clicked, and Djokovic poured on the heat, blazing a series of forehands into empty space and seizing control of the match with a set victory.

Continuing his momentum, Djokovic began laying into the ball and putting the Spaniard on the defensive in the third set, jumping to an early 2-0 lead with no signs of stopping. Nadal fended him off as best he could, but was overwhelmed to the point where he actually tripped over his own feet backing up from a shot.

Nadal’s odds of winning seemed to be steadily decreasing, but he clawed his way back to take the game and put a halt to Djokovic’s onslaught. The Serb adjusted, pumping shots into low-percentage areas. He started chalking up winners, but his unforced errors doubled as well. Ultimately this proved to be his undoing, as Djokovic failed to convert the critical break points. Nadal pulled ahead at 4-4, putting an end to Djokovic’s momentum with an overhead smash. Eventually, Nadal clinched the third set on an unforced error.

Djokovic fought bitterly in the fourth set, but couldn’t stop the Spaniard’s momentum so late in the match. Up 4-1, Nadal wore him down to the point that the Serb missed a routine passing shot, letting Nadal win the game and break his spirit all at once by going up 5-1. At that point Djokovic was done; shoulders slumped, he put up only token resistance as Nadal cruised to the title.

The final count saw Djokovic with 53 unforced errors to Nadal’s 20, though Djokovic led in all other aspects of the game. In the end, the 2013 U.S. Open saw Federer fall and unexpected talent rise to the occasion. It did more than mark the end of the season, however. This year the U.S. Open showed more than ever that in the world of tennis, anything can happen.

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