Rain halts Nadal bid to join elite ranks of Grand Slam masters - Tennis - Sport - The Independent

Rain halts Nadal bid to join elite ranks of Grand Slam masters

There are times when it seems that nothing can stop Rafael Nadal's assault on history, but the 24-year-old Spaniard was halted in his tracks for the second day in succession in New York last night.

The rain which had forced the postponement of his US Open final against Novak Djokovic the previous day returned midway through the second set, forcing the players off court. Nadal was leading 6-4, 4-4, with Djokovic serving at 30-30, when the skies above Flushing Meadows opened again, though the weather forecast suggested there would be no problem finishing the match later in the day.

If the break threatened to take the momentum away from Nadal, who had just won three games in succession, it also came shortly after Djokovic's best spell in the match. Having dominated the first set, Nadal had appeared to be coasting towards his goal of becoming only the seventh man to win all four Grand Slam titles, but Djokovic, playing in his second US Open final and his first at a Grand Slam tournament since his victory in Australia two years ago, fought back with admirable spirit.

Nadal was aiming for the ninth Grand Slam title of his career to complete an extraordinary turnaround in his year. Only five months ago the Spaniard was on an 11-month run without a title, with speculation mounting as to whether his suspect knees would prevent him ever recapturing his best form.

Since then he has won the French Open and Wimbledon and become both the first man to win a clean sweep of the four biggest honours in the clay-court season and the most successful player in Masters Series history, with 18 tournament victories.

Now history was beckoning as the Spaniard attempted to join Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi and Federer as the only men to win all four Grand Slam titles. At 24 years and 101 days he was also aiming to become the youngest man in the Open era to have done so and the third youngest ever, behind Budge and Laver.

Nadal had won 14 of his previous 21 matches against Djokovic, including all four at Grand Slam level, but the Serb had come out on top in their last three meetings and had won seven of their 10 contests on hard courts. This is the surface on which the Serb has enjoyed the most success and Nadal the least, though you would hardly have guessed that from the opening game.

Djokovic, who will take over Federer's world No 2 ranking today, won a superb first point, hitting a backhand winner after a lengthy baseline exchange, but Nadal quickly took command. The Spaniard won the next four points in succession to break serve, held to go 2-0 up and was 0-30 up on the Djokovic serve before the Serb recovered to open his account.

If Djokovic looked lethargic, that was perhaps no surprise given their semi-finals on Saturday. While Nadal had enjoyed a comfortable straight sets-win over Mikhail Youzhny, Djokovic, playing in the later match, had been on court for nearly four hours before beating Federer in five sets.

The fact that Djokovic was not hitting the ball with quite the same force as he had against Federer was also down to the quality of his opponent's play. Nadal struck the ball beautifully, hitting it with such consistent power that Djokovic was constantly pushed on to the back foot. No player in the modern game is as adept at turning defence into attack and when the world No 1 was on the retreat he was still liable to hit astonishing winners from almost any area of the court.

When Djokovic levelled at 2-2, the early crisis seemed to have been averted, but Nadal struck back immediately. Djokovic saved three break points from 0-40 down, but Nadal eventually completed the break with a huge forehand winner, after which the Serb smashed his racket in frustration.

Nadal served out to take the first set in 50 minutes, at which point Djokovic might have called to mind a chilling statistic. In his previous 108 Grand Slam matches Nadal had lost only once after winning the first set, when David Ferrer beat him in New York three years ago.

Djokovic, nevertheless, became the only player to break Nadal's serve twice in this tournament when he drew first blood in the second set. Suddenly striking the ball with more freedom, the Serb hit a succession of big forehand winners to take a 4-1 lead.

The change of momentum did not last long. Nadal broke in what seemed likely to be a pivotal seventh game with a huge backhand winner down the line and was threatening the Djokovic serve again at 4-4 when the weather intervened. The final had begun in bright sunshine in mid-afternoon, but by the second set the floodlights were burning brightly out of a leaden sky.

Remarkably, this is the third year in succession when the men's final has had to be played on a Monday. Until 2008, the tournament had not been forced to go into an extra day because of bad weather for 21 years. There have been renewed calls to put a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, but given the size of the arena that is about as unlikely as Nadal giving up tennis for tiddlywinks.

"It's technically complex and financially challenging," a USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said. "At a cost of more than $150 million [£97.3m], do you spend that on a roof or continue to fund grassroots tennis programs in this country?"

*Elena Baltacha is expected to be ranked inside the world's top 50 for the first time in her career by climbing to No 49 in today's updated list. She is only the second British woman to break the top 50 in the last 16 years after Anne Keothavong, who reached a career high of No 48 last year.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week