Rafael Nadal added a 16th Grand Slam title to his collection as he demolished Kevin Anderson, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, in the final of the US Open. He is now the holder of three titles in Flushing Meadows and will strengthen his grip on the world number one ranking in the process.
Bizarrely it is the Spaniard’s first hard court title since Doha in 2014 and it speaks to his improvement in 2017 that he blasted the big-serving South African off the court without surrendering a single break point.
With victory the 31-year-old has now claimed two Grand Slam titles in the same year for the first time since 2013 and the nature of his triumph here bore similarities to the ease in which he breezed through the draw at the French Open earlier this year.
It is also a fitting send-off for Toni Nadal, the Spaniard’s uncle and long-time coach, who will relinquish power in the Nadal camp at the end of the season. Meanwhile, the chase to equal Roger Federer’s 19 major haul is very much alive and kicking.
The victory was secured in two hours and 27 minutes but the opening exchanges painted a contrasting picture as Anderson fought off a series of break points.
The Spaniard was quick out of the blocks, harrying his opponent and chasing down every lost cause and he threatened in Anderson’s very first service game by taking him to deuce.
Nadal took care of his own deal with comfort and he had the South African on the ropes in the third game of the match. Two break points were squandered and it took Anderson eleven minutes to navigate his way out of the service game. Nadal, contrastingly, held without breaking a sweat.
Another deuce game followed with Anderson staving off another three break opportunities with damaging serves. An eight minute service hold seemed a reprieve following the last game but Nadal finally pressed home his advantage at 3-3.
The South African’s forehand was coming under scrutiny time and again and it was an errant swing off that wing that handed Nadal the initiative.
The Spaniard closed out the opening set with typical ruthlessness with Anderson being forced to wait until the opening game of set two to record his first non-deuce hold.
He certainly hadn’t allowed himself a lull in his performance following the disappointment of the opening frame but the problem was that his opponent was not prepared to blink.
The all-important break arrived in the sixth game; Nadal darting towards the net following a menacing backhand approach to volley himself into the driver’s seat in the second set. Anderson held to 30 to sustain the pressure but Nadal went one better with a love hold to move a set away from his second major of the year.
And victory was within sight for the 31-year-old when he broke to open set three. Anderson had worked himself back into the point after a punishing backhand but his footwork let him down as he lined up a forehand.
The writing was on the wall for the South African but the scoreline seemed to relax him as he secured his first love hold of the match.
Nadal continued to pound away, playing with immense conviction and he wrapped up number 16 with a timely serve and volley.