NEW YORK -- Second-seeded Rafael Nadal, who missed the U.S. Open last year with a knee injury, beat top-seeded Novak Djokovic, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, on Monday night for this 13th Grand Slam title and his second U.S. Open title on the Arthur Ashe Stadium Court in the first-ever scheduled Monday final.
The men had played on Monday the last five years because of rain delays.
Djokovic, a 26-year-old Serbian who won the Australian Open to start the season, suffered the same fate as everyone except Juan Martin del Potro in the last 20 years when he dropped the first set and failed to win the match. Del Potro came back to win a U.S. Open after losing the first set against Roger Federer.
Nadal, who took a 21-match winning streak on hard courts this summer into the final, won a Grand Slam title this year at the French Open -- his eighth at Roland Garros -- then took an inexplicable first-round loss to little known Belgian Steve Darcis in the first round at Wimbledon.
Since then, Nadal hasn’t lost a match and he hadn’t lost his serve at the U.S. Open until the semifinals against Richard Gasquet.
Although Nadal leads the head-to-head series, 21-15, Djokovic had won four of the last five meetings on hard courts.
In the first set, Nadal broke Djokovic’s serve in the third game, earned another break and breezed to a 6-2 win in 42 minutes.
Djokovic, who needed more than four hours to defeat Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals in a five-set match, had to find a new level.
It seemed he had with a service break after a 54-shot rally on one point helped give him a 4-2 lead, but Nadal immediately got the break back to make it 4-3.
Djokovic ended up winning the set after breaking serve in the eighth game and winning the ninth with an aggressive backhand winner to tie the match at a set each.
The Serb took the early 2-0 lead in the second set after breaking Nadal’s serve in the first game, putting the Spaniard on the defensive. But Nadal evened the set, 3-3, by breaking back in the sixth game and went on to win the third set.
In the fourth set, Nadal seemed to be playing harder, serving bigger, hitting the lines and making the ball dance with his lefty spin.