Rafael Nadal revealed his “love and passion” for the game helped him put a seal on a throwback year for men’s tennis at the US Open.
It was a 16th grand slam title for the Spaniard, who also claimed his 10th French Open title. And with long-time rival Roger Federer winning in Australia and Wimbledon, it is the first time for seven years that the sport’s two biggest superstars have swept its greatest prizes.
Once Federer lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals in New York, it was always likely that Nadal would take home the trophy.
And he proved far too strong for first-time finalist Kevin Anderson, winning 6-3 6-3 6-4 in two hours and 27 minutes on Sunday night.
The renewed dominance of Federer and Nadal would have been scarcely believable at the end of last season, when injuries put question marks over both of their futures.
“Of course I am surprised,” said Nadal. “But I was surprised in January. Now I am not that much surprised.
It’s true that I am 31, I am not 25, but I still have the passion and the love for the game. I still want to compete and still feel the nerves every time that I go on court.Rafael Nadal
“After the first two, three months of the season, you see that I am playing well, and if I am playing well on clay, I normally am going to have my chances.
“Of course he was playing great, so of course he will have his chances on grass and on hard later, like he had here.”
Nadal’s victory saw him again close to within three grand slam titles of Federer at the top of the all-time list – how different that would look had the Spaniard not the Swiss edged their dramatic battle in the Australian Open final.
Given Nadal is 31 to Federer’s 36, the prospect of the former eventually overtaking the latter appears distinctly possible once more.
“I really never thought much about that,” insisted Nadal. “I just do my way. He does his way. Let’s see when we finish.
“Of course if I will win two grand slams this year and he will not win, we’ll be closer, but he has 19, I have 16. So three is a big difference. I’m very happy with all the things that are happening to me, winning this title again. I have this trophy with me.
“It’s so important, winning on hard court again. That’s a lot of positive energy for me. Being healthy, you see everything more possible. With injuries, everything seems impossible.
“It’s true that I am 31, I am not 25, but I still have the passion and the love for the game. I still want to compete and still feel the nerves every time that I go on court.”