Djokovic beats Nadal for US Open title
What a difference a year makes! After losing to Rafael Nadal in last year's US Open final, Novak Djokovic roared back this year to win his first ever title at Flushing Meadows and third Grand Slam crown of the year. Recap all the action from the match with our game-by-game blog.
Game 7: Djokovic continues his relentless hitting and buries Nadal in a 30-0 hole. A blistering cross-court serve return from Nadal and a Djokovic error bring us to 30-30. Djokovic then laces a backhand winner to earn himself his first championship point. And he wins it on a forehand to the far corner. Novak Djokovic is your 2011 US Open champion, his third major championship of the year.
Game 6: Djokovic doesn't want to let this opening shut on him. A couple blistering shots down the line have him up 0-30 quickly on Nadal's serve. Nadal then pushes a backhand into the tape and it's a triple break point chance for Djokovic. The Serb wins the next rally for a two-break lead in the set. It's all on his racket now.
Game 5: If the back is bothering him, Djokovic is doing a great job concealing it. He holds easily to seize a 4-1 lead, once again oh so close to the US Open title.
Game 4: Nadal secures an easy hold as we cross the four-hour mark of the match. He'll need to crack Djokovic's serve yet again to get back in this, though.
Draining, physical play left both players stretching all over the court for shots.AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Game 3: Nadal jumps out to a 40-0 lead before smashing a forehand into the net. But Nadal misses the return and Djokovic holds serve.
Game 2: Despite the injury, Djokovic races out to a 15-40 lead. Nadal wipes out both of those break chances, before Djokovic earns another by curling a wicked forehand on the sideline. A great wide serve from Nadal brushes that one aside as well. Djokovic gets another after Nadal mishits a forehand. That one vanishes too. Still another Nadal error gives Djokovic a fifth break chance. Finally, he capitalizes, punishing a forehand winner up the line. Fourth set to Djokovic, 2-0.
Game 1: Djokovic is still feeling discomfort in the back, and he starts the fourth set with a very shaky service game. They go to two deuces before Djokovic holds. But he needs a medical timeout afterward to tend to his back. The plot thickens.
Tiebreak: Nadal's hitting vicious shots now, with a grunt to match, and he takes the first point of this do-or-die tiebreaker. He snags a minibreak on the next point before Djokovic gets on the board with a scorching backhand winner. 2-1, Nadal.
The Spaniard is on an absolute tear, and the crowd is behind him 100%. He surges out to a 5-1 lead and has a firm grasp on the tiebreaker.
Djokovic hits his way back into it, winning the next two points. But Nadal slams the door shut, closing it out, 7-3. We'll play a fourth set.
Game 12: Nadal gets some early hope, winning the first point, then gets a 15-30 lead after yet another incredible rally. At 30-30, Djokovic sprays a backhand long and Nadal has his shot to force a tiebreak. Another extended rally ends with Djokovic missing a backhand wide. To a tiebreak we go!
Nadal had his share of frustrations in the early sets.AP Photo/Matt Slocum
Game 11: A great return from Djokovic coaxes an error out of Rafa and gives Novak a 15-30 look. Nadal cracks his second ace on the next point, but Djokovic wins a long rally on the next for another break chance. Another rally, another painted line, and Djokovic has yet another break. He'll serve for the US Open championship.
Game 10: Nadal charges out to a 15-30 lead on Djokovic's serve, but the Serb hits his way out of trouble for the hold. It's 5-all in the third.
Game 9: A hold as easy as can be, at least for this tense match. Nadal up 5-4, trying to push us to a fourth set. We're over three hours in already.
Game 8: More incredible rallies. More incredible shots. Djokovic has his hands full holding serve but manages to scratch it out and bring us to 4-4.
Game 7: Nadal finally follows a break with a hold — capping it with a smoking forehand winner up the line — and sticks his nose in front here in the third set. Is the tide turning here?
Game 6: Djokovic is ailing. His back's bothering him as he loses his break edge again. Nadal cracks the Serb's serve at love and we're back level at 3-3.
Game 5: Another deuce-ridden game. Another break for Djokovic. Nadal has yet to follow up a break with a hold in this match. Once again, a stranglehold on the match for Djokovic.
Game 4: Don't count Nadal dead yet. He breaks back to get on serve again at 2-2.
Game 3: I stand corrected. A loose game from Nadal hands a break to Djokovic. It's looking very grim for Rafa.
Game 2: The serves appear to be rounding into form. Djokovic holds easily. 1-1 here in the third.
Game 1: Nadal fires an ace out wide to cap a hold at love, by far his best service game of the match. Let's see if he can build off the momentum.
Game 10: Djokovic drops the first point on his serve, then rattles off the next four to take the set. He's on the verge of his first ever US Open title.
Game 9: And Nadal coughs it right back up. Djokovic breaks easily and once again will serve for the set.
Game 8: Nadal's back in the set! A beautiful backhand winner down the line on break point gets the Spaniard even at 4-4. Now he must hold.
Game 7: Nadal snaps the skid in this set, but it doesn't come easy. He'll have to find away to break Djokovic again to get back in this set.
Game 6: Nadal gets a brief window at 15-30, but Djokovic shuts it in a hurry. A hold makes it 4-2.
Game 5: Much shorter service game this time for Nadal, same result. He double faults on break point to give the game, and the lead in the set, to Djokovic.
Game 4: After the marathon third game, Djokovic wastes no time holding at love to level the set, 2-2. No one's tougher mentally than Nadal, but he must be frustrated now.
Game 3: An incredible rally saves Nadal from slipping into a 0-40 hole on his serve. Djokovic still earns a break chance, but hits into the tape after — yes — another long rally. They go to an astounding eight deuces before Djokovic finally capitalizes on a break point chance when Nadal misses a tough overhead. Back on serve at 2-1 after an epic game that took over 15 minutes to play.
Game 2: Nadal keeps up the tenacity and races out to a 0-40 lead on Djokovic's first service game of the set. Djokovic fights off two, but Nadal breaks and unleashes a mean first pump after a lengthy rally. Just like last set, he's up 2-0.
Game 1: Nadal gets what he sorely needed — a victorious game. A relatively easily hold to start off the set as Nadal looks to flip the script here.
Game 8: Full throttle now for Djokovic. He roars to a hold at love — the first easy hold of the match. The red-hot Serb is two sets away from his third major title of the year.
Game 7: Djokovic is hitting his stride now. A couple dazzling drop shots help earn him three more break points. Nadal wipes away two, but Djokovic gets his third break of the set on the next point after a long rally. He'll serve for the set.
Game 6: They go to deuce yet again in this grueling first set. Djokovic secures the hold without facing a break point. He has won four straight games and now Nadal's in real jeopardy of dropping the opening frame here.
Game 5: Point of the match so far comes at 30-30, when a great Djokovic drop shot sends Nadal screaming toward the net. Nadal taps a backhand at a sharp angle, Djokovic stabs it back, and they trade three more shots amidst a roaring crowd before Djokovic finally sends one long. After a trip to deuce, the overpowering Djokovic hits Nadal off the court to secure another break and nab a 3-2 lead.
Game 4: Now it's Djokovic's turn to cough up break point chances. Nadal earns two, but loses both. He gets another, but Djokovic saves that. After three deuces, the Serb finally locks down the hold. About 30 minutes in and we've only played four games. Get comfortable!
Game 3: And just like that Nadal stumbles himself into a triple-break-point hole. A big first serve saves one, an easy forehand winner saves the second, but then the Spaniard floats a forehand long. Djokovic breaks back, and we're on serve again.
Game 2: Long rallies will be the norm in this matchup of two highly accurate players with top-notch defensive skills. Nadal outslugs Djokovic to earn a break point, then capitalizes when Djokovic slaps a backhand into the tape. Early edge to Nadal, but you get the feeling there will be many more breaks to come.
Game 1: Nadal serves to open the match, and it takes only three points for us to get a couple riveting rallies. Nadal secures the hold, but it's not easy amid the high quality of Djokovic's return game. A promising start for what should be a great match.
Zack Pierce is an assistant managing editor and former tennis editor for FOXSports.com.