Rafael Nadal won his third U.S. Open on Sunday, sweeping Kevin Anderson (6-3, 6-3, 6-4) in the final. It's Nadal's 16th career Grand Slam title, moving him a bit closer to Roger Federer and his all-time best of 19 career slams. Along with the French Open title he claimed in June, the victory gives Nadal two Grand Slam titles in the same season for the first time since 2013.
Nadal was sharp on Sunday at Arthur Ashe Stadium. He never faced a break point when serving and lost just 15 points on his serve in the match. Any hope that Anderson could make a comeback after two sets dissipated in the third, when Nadal broke Anderson in the first game. From there, the Spaniard was on cruise control.
"Unbelievable what has happened this year,'' Nadal said after the match. "Since the first important event of the year in Australia, I've played [at] a high level of tennis. Winning in here is high energy because the crowd here is unbelievable. It makes me feel so happy."
Before the tournament, it seemed as if Nadal was on a collision course to face Federer in the semifinals (the two had never faced each other before in the U.S. Open). But those plans were upended by Juan Martin del Potro, who upset Federer in the quarterfinals. That opening allowed Nadal to inch closer to Federer's 19 Grand Slams.
After the last year in tennis, it looks like the battle between the two legends to finish their careers at the top of the all-time Grand Slams list will be the dominant story in men's tennis until they retire. Nadal, 31, is five years younger than Federer, 36, though Fed has more hardware. Both men have had amazing runs this year, splitting the Slams, with Federer winning the Australian Open and Wimbeldon.
Rafael Nadal: 3rd man in the Open Era to win multiple majors in a season in his 30s (Rod Laver in 1969 & Roger Federer in 2017) pic.twitter.com/Mwp19n4h7r- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 10, 2017
Although Nadal was strong throughout the Open, he was also aided by a hefty dose of luck with a Federer-less run. Thanks to a topsy-turvy tournament full of upsets and surprises, he didn't face a single player ranked in the top 25 of the world. That's likely the easiest route a U.S. Open champion has ever traversed.
That said, you can't throw too much shade: Nadal is among the best ever. No one can take that away.
Cy Brown writes about football, golf, soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.