US Open 2017

Tennis: Rafael Nadal rides wave of revival

Like great rival Federer, he defies talk of fading away as third NY title caps stellar year

Rafael Nadal of Spain bursting with joy in New York on Sunday after beating Kevin Anderson of South Africa for his second Grand Slam title this year.
Rafael Nadal of Spain bursting with joy in New York on Sunday after beating Kevin Anderson of South Africa for his second Grand Slam title this year.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Rafael Nadal described this year as "one of the best of his career" after winning a third US Open and 16th Grand Slam title on Sunday.

The tennis world No. 1 defeated South Africa's world No. 32 Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 in a brutally one-sided final during which he did not face a break point.

The 31-year-old Spaniard also claimed an unprecedented 10th French Open in June after finishing runner-up to Roger Federer at the Australian Open.

"In terms of results, this has been one of the best seasons of my career," Nadal said of a year in which he won at least two Slams for the fourth time in his career.

Had he gotten the better of Gilles Muller at Wimbledon, where he lost the final set of his fourth-round clash 13-15, the year might have been even more memorable.

"I have been winning titles, playing three finals of Grand Slams, so that's a lot. That's so difficult," said Nadal.

"So it was a very competitive year for me. And on clay I won almost every match. Of course it is an emotional season because I have been through tough moments in terms of injuries."

His win on Sunday was the latest chapter in an epic story of domination by the sport's superstars.

From Wimbledon in 2003, an incredible 53 of 58 Slams have now been claimed by just five men - Federer (19), Nadal, Novak Djokovic (12) and Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka (three apiece).

Only Andy Roddick, Gaston Gaudio, Marat Safin, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic have broken the spell.

To hammer home their enduring appeal and dominance, Federer and Nadal shared the four Slams this year - Federer winning the Australian Open before capturing a record eighth Wimbledon.

Despite his success, catching the 36-year-old Swiss legend's 19 Slams is not particularly high on Nadal's list of priorities.

"I really never thought much about that. I just do my way. He does his way. Let's see when we finish," he said. "I have 16. So three is big difference. I really don't think much about these kind of things.

"Tennis is not all about the Grand Slams, so there are tournaments to come and I'm excited about this last part of the season."

It is all a far cry from the end of last year when the injury-hit Nadal was ranked ninth in the world and Federer 16th.

However, this year, the duo have won five titles apiece and yesterday they were back at No. 1 and No. 2 in the world for the first time since 2011.

"I was surprised in January. Now I am not that much surprised," said Nadal.

"There are things that probably Roger and me share - that is passion for what we are doing, passion for tennis, passion for the competition and the spirit of improvement all the time."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2017, with the headline 'Nadal rides wave of revival'. Print Edition | Subscribe