Rafael Nadal finally got his hands on the US Open crown to complete his career Grand Slam and it provides yet more ammunition to those, myself included, who feel he is the greatest player ever to pick up a racket.
His win over Novak Djokovic came against the world No. 2 and at present the second best player on the planet - that tag no longer sits on the shoulders of Roger Federer. Djokovic played the game of his life, after shrugging off some first-set lethargy, and traded shot after shot with Nadal. But no matter what Djokovic threw at his opponent, Nadal found a way of getting the job done.
The quality was not brilliant for a set and a half, but after the rain delay it was out of the top drawer and they served up one of the games of the year.
The rivalry between Nadal and Djokovic could eclipse the one between Nadal and Federer. Many wanted a Nadal-Fed final, but that would not have been nice to witness as the Swiss, as good as he has been and still is, would have been chewed up and spat out. Djokovic possesses a weapon on his backhand that Federer does not and it makes life tough for Nadal but such is his stature at present, he can still come up with an answer.
Nadal seems to be managing his body better, on account of a more sensible schedule, and he now has nine grand slams under his belt. At 24 he has, provided his body stays strong, many more slams ahead of him and Federer's record of 16 is within reach.
There will still be those who will champion Federer as the greatest. But he has been in Nadal's slipstream for three years and there is no doubt that Federer would still be waiting for his career Grand Slam had Nadal been fit at the 2009 French Open.
Those who say Nadal is a one-trick power player are utterly wrong. Yes he gives the ball a tremendous thump from the baseline, but he often plays within himself compared to how hard he hits the ball in practice. He has worked on his serve since Paris to make him competitive on the hard courts and he is no slouch around the net.
Whether he can raise the bar much higher remains to be seen, but he has the dedication, support of family and humbleness to not rest on his laurels.
In an era when so many sports stars are in the news pages as much as the sports pages, it is a delight to see Nadal play the game with such joy and then head home to celebrate with his close unit.
A tremendous win from a worthy champion and long may his reign continue.
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|Alex Livie found his way to ESPN after learning his trade with Sky Sports, Setanta Sports and Eurosport. He is running out of companies with sport in their name so has made it his raison d'être to ensure ESPN.co.uk has the website it deserves.|
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