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Sports

Nadal earns career Slam with victory

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 05:41 PM
NEW YORK -

Rafael Nadal won his first U.S. Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, beating Novak Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 Monday in a match filled with fantastic shotmaking by both men and interrupted by a storm a day after it was postponed by rain.

It's Nadal's third consecutive major championship and ninth overall.

He is the seventh man in tennis history with at least one title from each Grand Slam tournament.

Rain pushed the men's final from Sunday to Monday for the third consecutive year, and play was interrupted for nearly two hours during the second set. When they resumed, Djokovic took that set, the only one Nadal lost in the tournament.

But the No. 1-ranked Spaniard quickly took a lead in the third set and never let it go. Viewed for quite some time as Roger Federer's nemesis, Nadal has made his own greatness quite clear.

He stretched his Grand Slam winning streak to 21 matches by adding the U.S. Open to his titles at the French Open in June, then Wimbledon in July. No man had won those three tournaments in the same year since Rod Laver won a true Grand Slam in 1969. Now Nadal heads to the Australian Open in January with a chance to claim a Rafa Slam of four consecutive major championships - something that also hasn't been done since Laver.

No. 3 Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open champion, made Nadal earn it. The Serb played superbly for long stretches, showing off the terrific returning, retrieving and big forehand he used to knock off 16-time Grand Slam champion Federer in Saturday's semifinals.

Coming out of the rain delay with Djokovic serving at 4-all, 30-all in the second set, both players clearly benefited from a bit of rest. Fresh of body and clear of mind, and with conditions perfect for tennis , they were superb, engaging in 10-, 15-, 20-stroke points that drew standing ovations.

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