Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Another U.S. Open is in the books and it
should come as no surprise that the game's hottest players were there at the
end when the big hardware was hoisted into the New York air.
Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams headed to the Big Apple having both finished
atop the U.S. Open Series (the North American hardcourt events leading up to
the Open) and both superstars continued their recent winning ways en route to
titles at the year's final Grand Slam tournament, with both stars coming out
on top in a pair of marquee 1-versus-2 finals.
The amazing Nadal has been serving like a madman of late, so much so that he
improved to an unlikely 22-0 on hardcourts this year by "upsetting" current
world No. 1 and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in Monday's brilliant
men's final at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It marked the
37th career meeting between the two greats, which is a record for matchups on
the men's side in the Open Era (since 1968).
The return-of-serve artist that is Djokovic managed only three breaks against
the Spanish bull that is Nadal, who ultimately prevailed in four sets,
including an unfortunately lopsided 6-1 final set.
While you can possibly argue who's the best player on the men's side -- the
six-time major champion Djokovic, Nadal (my pick) or reigning Wimbledon
titlist Andy Murray -- there's no question who the best women's player is
right now, and maybe sometime in the near future we may even be arguing Serena
is the greatest of all time. Dare is say ... the GOAT.
Serena's latest victim in the U.S. Open final was the same one as last year,
former No. 1 and reigning Australian Open queen Victoria Azarenka, as the
American powerhouse outlasted her Belarusian counterpart in three
sets for the second time in two years at Ashe Stadium.
The American great repeated at the U.S. Open for the first time in her career,
and corralled U.S. Open title No. 5. Her grand total for Grand Slam singles
titles now sits at 17, which is good enough for sixth place all-time, and good
enough for fourth in the Open Era. Only Steffi Graf (22), Chris Evert (18) and
Martina Navratilova (18) have captured more majors over the last 45 years. And
something tells me that Serena's gonna pass 'em all.
The 31-year-old already owns nine titles on the WTA circuit this year, one in
which she's a dazzling 67-4 overall.
The 27-year-old Nadal, meanwhile, now has his career Grand Slam total up to
13, and only Roger Federer (17) and Pete Sampras (14) are ahead of the mighty
Mallorcan on the men's ledger.
Can Rafa catch Roger? Why not?
He appears to be at the very top of his formidable game, and, heck, he may
even be able to reach Roger just because of the French Open, where Nadal's
already owns a record eight titles with no immediate end to his Roland Garros
reign in sight.
The former No. 1 Nadal currently holds half of the men's major titles, while
Serena also has that same distinction on the women's side. They are both the
reigning French Open champs.
Serena is already ranked No. 1 among the women, while the ATP rankings say
Nadal is still only No. 2 on the men's side. But we all know better than that
right now. In addition to being a perfect 22-0 on hardcourts this year, Rafa
is a sizzling 60-3 overall, including 10-2 in a whopping 12 finals, this after
returning in February following a seven-month knee-injury layoff which forced
him to miss last year's Olympic Games in London and the U.S. Open, and this
year's Aussie extravaganza.
The high-flying Spaniard also now owns 60 career titles on the grueling ATP
Speaking of the aforementioned Federer, I think it's safe to say his Grand
Slam-winning days may be over. After finishing as a stunning second-round loser
at Wimbledon, the Swiss icon and five-time U.S. Open champ bowed out in the
fourth round in Flushing, as he failed to reach a U.S. Open quarterfinal for
the first time since 2003. Wow.
The once-mighty Fed has captured only one major title at the last 14 Grand
Slam events (Wimbledon last year).
Nadal, who was a shocking first-round loser at Wimbledon in June, and Djokovic
have combined to win 12 of the last 15 major titles and the two stalwarts have
met in three of the last four finals in Gotham, with Nadal winning two.
Djokovic has played in the last four U.S. Open finals, going 1-3, and he's now
1-4 lifetime in the championship round in New York. He lost to Murray in last
year's quality five-set finale.
The "Big Four" -- Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Federer -- have combined
to win 34 of the last 35 Grand Slam titles, while Serena and Azarenka have
combined to capture six of the last eight majors on the ladies' side.
And what happened to Murray in Queens? The British star headed to the Open as
the reigning champ. He's also the reigning Wimbledon titlist and Olympic gold
medalist. But no one old Stan Wawrinka, who stunningly upended the third seed
in straight sets in the quarterfinals last week.
Rafa and Serena each pocketed $3.6 million as the latest U.S. Open champs, a
figure that included $1 million bonus money for finishing atop the standings
for the U.S. Open Series.
In the grand (slam) scheme of things, is Serena better than Steffi, Martina,
or Chrissie? Probably. And is Rafa better than Roger or Pete? I'm not touchin'
that one ...
The Sports Network