Saturday, September 11, 2010
He finally did it. On a picturesque day at Flushing Meadows, Rafael Nadal reached his first EVAH US Open final defeating Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. The top seed has been in devastating form the entire tourney not dropping a set to reach the final Sunday and today was no exception. He cracked 23 winners against 19 errors, had a 65% on first serves including 3 aces and made 15 of 23 net approaches.
Misha was comprehensively outplayed the entire match and seemed to be feeling the effects of his 5-set battle with Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. The Russians energy couldn't match the moment or his opponent's (but really, who can match Rafa point to point?) His only chance, which he took, came in the third set with the Matador leading with a break and serving at 4-3. He grabbed the break only to give it right back allowing Rafa to close out the match.
After his victory leap and post-match celebration he thanked the crowd for their support and gave a mention to the 9-year anniversary of 9/11. A touch of grace by the 8-time Grand Slammer.
In a match for the ages Novak Djokovic saved two match points to overcome Roger Federer 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 and reach his second US Open final. The Serb had lost to the 5-time champ in the 2007 final and at this same stage the past two years so he carried an orangutan on his back as he walked onto Arthur Ashe Stadium for this battle.
But he came ready to break that streak digging deeper than he ever has, striking back when behind and keeping an aggressive stance in the key moments - the biggest one being, of course, the final set. And what an epic final set it was. The pair showcased awesome offense mixed with spectacular defense and brave forays into the net. It was a shot maker's wet dream.
Speaking of shot making, Nole faced those MP's serving down 4-5 with class including a swinging FH volley winner and a FH winner down the line to get back to even in the game. He earned the only break of the set at 5-all and sealed the win when the second seed's BH went wide. Even the Serb seemed shocked by the upset staring in disbelief at his box for what seemed like an eternity then dropping to his knees to kiss the court.
Fed was undone by UEs (66 in total compared to 38 for Nole) particularly on his fave FH side in crucial moments and none bigger than in the 10th game of the final set when two errors on that side gave the Serb the break. He lives and dies by that stroke and today, as it's been in many of his recent losses, it failed to come through when it mattered.
So, anyone else's mouth watering for Rafole? Mine might be.
[Photo(s): Getty Images]