Rafael Nadal was forced to drop from the first place in the rankings in 2009 despite winning the Australian Open, struggling with injuries but regaining his form in the last couple of months, eager to return to the top in 2010.
He did that after a rock solid season, winning seven titles including all three Masters 1000 titles on clay and three Majors. The Spaniard had conquered his first US Open crown in September to complete the Career Grand Slam, becoming the fourth and also the youngest player who achieved that in the Open era, following Rod Laver, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer.
In addition, this was the ninth Grand Slam crown for Rafa who moved ahead of the names like Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi and Ivan Lendl who ended their careers on eight. In addition, Rafa was the first player who had won three Grand Slam titles in a row on different surfaces and this is certainly one of the most beloved tournaments he ever won, also becoming the first left-handed winner since John McEnroe in 1984.
He lost in the semis in Toronto and in the quarters in Cincinnati but we saw him at the very best in New York, rattling off 21 out of 22 sets and beating Novak Djokovic 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-2 in a grueling three hours and 43 minutes of outstanding tennis.
It was one of the best serving displays from the Spaniard ever (106 holds in 111 games), unleashing fury from his first serve and fending off 14 out of 16 break points he faced in the opening six matches to topple all the rivals in straight sets and set that title clash against Novak, in what was Nadal's first US Open final.
Teymuraz Gabashvili and Denis Istomin challenged Rafa in the opening two rounds on a very fast hard court but world number 1 found his rhythm and he was untouchable in the next four matches to reach the final in a great spirit and highly motivated to lift the last Major he was missing.
Djokovic managed to break Rafa three times from four chances but that wasn't enough against such a strong rival, losing 42% of the points in his games and facing no less than 25 break points. The Serb managed to fend off 20 of those but five breaks were enough for Rafa to get over the finish line in four sets and write tennis history.
Nadal created a big advantage with his second serve and he tamed his shots in a more efficient way, dominating in the shortest and longest points to earn his win fair and square, missing a chance to bring the match home even earlier if he had converted more break points.
A bullet from the backhand gave Rafa a break at 15 in the opening game of the match and he confirmed it with a hold in game two after a huge forehand error from Djokovic. It was Nadal's turn to miss a forehand in game four, losing serve only for the third time since the start of the tournament but breaking Novak again in game five after a forehand down the line winner.
Three winners in game eight pushed Rafa 5-3 in front and he held at 15 in game 10 after Novak's backhand error to bring the opener home in 50 minutes. Djokovic was there to fight and he broke at love in the fourth game of the second set to create a 3-1 lead, holding at love in game five after an amazing forehand winner to increase his advantage.
Nadal broke back in game seven after another stunning backhand down the line stroke and he leveled the score at 4-4 with a service winner in the following game. The match had to be suspended for two hours after a few points in the ninth game and it was Novak who kept his focus high, breaking Rafa in game 12 with a deep return to take the set 7-5 and level the overall score at 1-1 after two hours.
Nadal bounced back and he broke in the third game of the third set when Djokovic sprayed a forehand error and he was the dominant player on the court in the rest of the set, sailing through his service games and keeping the pressure on Novak to create 11 break chances overall! He stayed on that one break but that was all he needed, delivering the set with two back-to-back service winners in game 10 to move a set away from the title in just under three hours.
Novak was unable to follow that pace and he hit another forehand long in the third game of the fourth set to drift further and further away from the title. A hold at love moved Nadal 3-1 in front and he grabbed another break in game five when Djokovic netted another routine shot from his right wing that let him down completely.
Rafa saved a break point in game six and a service winner moved hi 5-1 up, forcing Novak to serve to stay in the match. The Serb held but that was all he could do, sending yet another forehand wide in game nine to hand the game and the win to Nadal who fell to the court in disbelief, starting a huge celebration of what has been of his most important wins ever, and also in such an amazing style.