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Pro Tennis Showcase
September 12, 2011

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US Open 2011, Flushing Meadows, New York, USA
September 12, 2011
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

He Works Hard For His Money
September 12, 2011 -- Novak Djokovic looked right at home on Arthur Ashe Stadium. He exuded confidence, pride and a fierce determination to win. Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, scrambled and clawed away at every point, his belief in victory burning deep in his soul.
Their match this afternoon and into the night, their clash for dominance and glory, pushed both to the brink. Multiple rallies of 26, 27, and 31 shots wore on their bodies, but never their spirits. They ran, reversed direction, spun, skidded side to side, sneakers screeching, hungry to return the ball, daring the other to not, to cry out "what can I do?"
Three hours in, they had not completed three sets. Arduous tennis. Novak's and Rafael's fitness put to the test time after time, shot after shot. Their lungs expanding and contracting.
Neither man gave in or gave up much, Novak's serve and return of serve a level above the Spaniard's. This made the difference. Nadal didn't care; his heart is big; he digs deep. Back to the baseline, "I'm going to try my best."
Nadal broke Djokovic's serve multiple times, but only kept the advantage a few. Novak had answers for Nadal's aggression. Most of these answers had nothing to do with strokes, speed, or kick serves. He, more consistently, remained relaxed under the pressure, in the big moments when it mattered the most.
But Nadal's confidence steadily rose in the third, a sharp uptick as his shots lengthened and his serve rose to the occasion. You sensed hope from the #2 seed. He moved with alacrity, his shots pinned Djokovic deep in the court.
Nonetheless, Djokovic's relentless barrage of outstanding ground strokes tipped the score in his favor. At 6-5, in the third, he served for the title, the championship -- an awesome expectation.
Nadal has no sense of impending failure, though. Those thoughts do not enter his mind. If they haven't shaken hands at the net, chances are there for the taking.
And he took them and the third set. On to four. Djokovic's shoulders fell.
Fans inside the Ashe cavern were on their feet, thunderous applaud. Nadal had done the impossible and Djokovic looked spent, he grabbed at his back. The trainer massaged his back. Why were we in another set?
The elation was tested early in the fourth. Rafa backed up behind the baseline, floated returns off 80 mph serves, he clutched his right hamstring after several points.
Their match will certainly go down in the history of tennis as a 'great match.' It was the most physical tennis of the entire two weeks, perhaps of many Grand Slam finals from years past. It reminded many of the 2008 Wimbledon final, where Nadal broke the fairytale run of five victories in a row for Roger Federer. Where both men left all they had on the lawns. The same happened in New York tonight.
Nadal has not won the U. S. Open five times, only once, last year. However, before his loss tonight, he had been defeated by Djokovic five times in five finals. This was the sixth defeat and probably his toughest.
"I go back to Spain more happy today than after the Wimbledon final," Nadal told the press. He was happy with his 'fight' and feels he's 'on the right path to beat Nole.'
U. S. Open Men's Singles Champion Novak Djokovic walked away with his third major title of the year -- his first in New York. The scoreline: 62 64 67(3) 61. He has won three of four slams this year. Only six other champions have accomplished that feat. Rafael Nadal is one.
Djokovic's victory caps off a year of superlative tennis, which actually sparked into existence with Serbia's Davis Cup victory. He is now 64-2. Today's trophy is his 10th of the season. His improved serve, return of serve, and his mind have joined forces to become the fiercest competitor in men's tennis. He also is making less mistakes, according to Nadal.
"It sounds unreal," Novak said when asked about having won the title, on court minutes after he fell on his back is exhaustion and joy. "I wouldn't do it without my team and my girlfriend and physio and fans."
Both men were gracious in their condolences for the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 ten years ago.
Djokovic was a finalist at the Open in 2007, when he lost to Roger Federer, and in 2010 when he lost to Nadal. For three years he settled at the #3 ranking spot. Now he has truly broken through to the top.
Djokovic earned $1.8 million USD for his efforts -- winning seven rounds at the U. S. Open. He was also awarded an extra $500,000 USD for being the runner-up in the U. S. Open Series.
His imprint on the game this year will be considered heavy. He was the man to beat, and remains so. If he can continue to display his brand of greatness, year in and year out, then he will be considered a great player. Djokovic is on his way with four Grand Slam titles to his resume.
He very easily could have done what many think is impossible in this day and age of men's tennis when matches are won and lost on extremely narrow margins. Roger Federer stalled Novak's hopes for a true, calendar-year Grand Slam, thought, defeating today's champion in the semifinals at Roland Garros.
Djokovic has much to be grateful for and much to celebrate. Congratulations. Tennis fans are thrilled to see you perform so well.


[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) d [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) {blue shirt} 62 64 67(3) 61
Rafael Nadal 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Rafael Nadal Novak Djokovic 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Novak Djokovic Trophy 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Novak Djokovic Trophy 2011 US Open New York Tennis

Earlier Columns from this Event:
September 11, 2011 US Open: Stosur Upsets Serena Williams - Wins First Grand Slam
September 10, 2011 US Open: A Crack of Luck - Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, Murray, S Williams, Wozniacki
September 9, 2011 US Open: Fabulous Friday - Murray, Isner, Nadal, Roddick
September 7-8, 2011 US Open: They played - Djokovic, Tisparevic, Federer, Tsonga, S Williams, Pavlyuchenkova, Nadal, Muller, Isner, Simon, Murray, Young
September 6, 2011 US Open: Over The Years
September 5, 2011 US Open: The Big Stories - Tipsarevic, Ferrero, Djokovic, Dolgopolov
September 4, 2011 US Open: The Outliers - Nadal, Nalbandian, Roddick, Benneteau
September 3, 2011 US Open: Embellishments - Wozniacki, King, Monaco, Haas
September 2, 2011 US Open: Moving Closer - Pennetta, Sharapova, Isner, Ginepri
September 1, 2011 US Open: Will the Real Top Seeds Please Stand Up - Federer, Sela, S Williams, Krajicek
August 31, 2011 US Open: Big Day - Murray, Devvarman, Stosur, Vandeweghe
August 30, 2011 US Open: A Kid In a Candy Store - Nadal, Golubev, Blake, Huta Galung
August 29, 2011 US Open: The Youngsters, Plus One - Fish, Kamke, Dulgheru, Kvitova
August 28, 2011 US Open: Before It All Begins

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