Sidelined between Wimbledon 2012 and February 2013 due to a left knee injury, Rafael Nadal returned on his beloved clay in Vina del Mar, losing a tight final against Horacio Zeballos. In the following three weeks, Rafa won Sao Paulo and Acapulco to build confidence and shape his game.
The Spaniard was ready to play at his best again, conquering Indian Wells, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome, also losing in the final of Monte Carlo for 44 wins in the first 46 matches of the season. The best was yet to come during the summer, though, as Rafa claimed titles in Montreal and Cincinnati to enter the US Open as world no.
2 and one of the favorites to go all the way. Like in 2010, the Spaniard brought a full package of incredible serving and strong groundstroke from both wings, fending off all six break points in the opening five matches to sail into the semi-final where he defeated Richard Gasquet to set the third US Open title match against Novak Djokovic in the last four years.
Novak proved to be too strong in 2011 but Nadal was the player to beat now, scoring a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 win in three hours and 21 minutes on September 9 for the 60th ATP crown and the 13th Major, moving one behind Pete Sampras.
It was the 22nd triumph from as many matches for Rafa on hard courts in 2013, earning it after a better performance on serve and in the crucial moments, repelling eight out of 11 break chances and stealing Novak's serve six times from 11 opportunities.
They had a similar number of service winners (only 35 from 223 points overall) and Novak had more winners from the court, outplaying Rafa with his forehand to test an in-form rival as always before. On the other hand, that aggression drew more than 60 unforced errors, allowing Nadal to claim the victory after taming his shots more efficiently.
Rafa had the upper hand in the shortest and more extended rallies to cross the finish line in four sets and celebrate the second Major title of the season after Roland Garros.
Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic to claim 2013 US Open crown.
Rafa drew first blood in the third game after a forehand winner and held after deuce to move 3-1 ahead, making a rock-solid start that is always very important in Major finals.
Djokovic sent a forehand long in game seven to lose serve at love, falling 5-2 down and handing the opening set to Nadal following another forehand error in the next one. The Spaniard fended off two break chances in the second game of the second set before the Serb found the way to break him after an incredible 55-shot rally that sent him 4-2 up!
His lead was a short-lived one, though, with Nadal breaking back in game seven after forcing an error from Novak who fought back, scoring another break with a backhand winner to open up a 5-3 lead. Serving for the set, Djokovic painted a backhand down the line winner to take the set 6-3 and level the overall score after an hour and 40 minutes, ready to give his best and regain the crown he lost to Andy Murray a year ago.
Carried by this momentum, Novak opened the third set with a break at love, holding with an ace to increase the lead to 2-0 and looking very good in those moments. Rafa saved a break point in game three to end his downfall and avoid an even more significant deficit, pulling the break back in game six after a weak backhand from Novak to level the score at 3-3 and gain a massive boost before the second part of the set.
In one of the most important games of the entire championship, Rafa erased three break chances at 4-4, bringing it home with a smash winner and forcing an error from Djokovic in game ten to steal the set after an hour and move closer to the title.
The Serb had more chances for a break at the beginning of the fourth set, but it wasn't to be for him, failing to convert any and paying the price in the next game when Rafa blasted a forehand down the line winner to move 2-0 up, looking like the man on the mission now.
Another backhand winner sent Nadal 3-0 in front, delivering a nice hold at 3-1 to stay ahead and come two games away from the crown. Novak lost the edge and energy completely, suffering another break in game six and netting a forehand a few minutes later to hand Rafa the title.
The Spaniard fell to the ground in disbelief, standing at the top of the tennis world just seven months after returning to the court following that nasty knee injury. By the end of the season, the Spaniard would play only four tournaments, doing enough to secure the year-end no. 1 spot in one of his most impressive seasons ever, giving the circumstances.