From being hailed as the king of clay to one surmounting every surface, Rafael Nadal occupies a rare place in the world of tennis. His third US Open title triumph reinforced the fact that for all the emergence of the Gen Next, big time tennis is still the monopoly of the Big four with Roger Federer, Novaj Djokovic and Andy Murray being the other three. A testimony of their dominance is in the fact that since Wimbledon 2003, the four have won an incredible 50 of the 58 Grand Slam singles titles with Federer enjoying an all-time high of 19, followed by Nadal (16), Novak Djokovic (12) and Andy Murray (3).
The greatness of the southpaw from Spain is that he has been a consistent performer at the top, even though he has been down with nagging injuries for considerable periods. He was a bundle of emotions at Flushing Meadows on Sunday, which is understandable and signifies that he is a mortal, after all.
This is the icing on the cake for the gritty manner he regained the number one spot. Following the latest triumph, he has now won at least two majors in a season for the fourth time in his extremely remarkable career. He did not hide his emotion when he remarked after the US Open win – After a couple of years with some injury problems, it feels unbelievable.
And then there is the human side to him. For one who always swears that staying fit and in peak form is what rejuvenates him than winning titles, Nadal was quick to point out that chasing the Federer benchmark was not his immediate priority. However, being 31, he certainly has age on his side to catch up with the Swiss Master, who even in the twilight of a glorious career manages to dish out vintage tennis, a talent that won him two Grand Slams this season.
One should not miss out the fact that a game in which youthful exuberance is the order of the day both have managed to come back with stunning performances. During the commencement of the season, Nadal’s ranking had slumped to ninth while Federer was at a distant 16! Their comebacks are the stuff of legends, so to say. On that count, they both have proved that they are the great survivors who can weather many a storm even at this age when youngsters prefer to give the seniors on the circuit a run for their money.
Meanwhile, the men draw may not have thrown up any new champion, but in the women’s draw it was a sizzling roller-coaster. An all-American semi-final line-up was a telling lesson for the pretenders to the throne, particularly with the gallant effort put up by Venus Williams. If Maria Sharapova hogged the limelight in the first week with a magnificent comeback to mainstream tennis, it was the emergence of two unlikely players, eventual champion Sloane Stephens and runner-up Madison Keys that made this edition so extraordinarily special. Equations apart, it was a good advertisement for the sport.