Nadal cruises to U.S. Open title

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- NEW YORK -- For all the injuries, upsets and withdrawals at this topsy turvy U.S. Open, Rafael Nadal restored some order on Sunday.

The No. 1 seed beat No. 28 Kevin Anderson, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, in 2 hours, 28 minutes to win the men's championship on a sun-kissed day before 25,755 in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The crowd included Tiger Woods, who sat in Nadal's player box, Jerry Seinfeld, Tony Bennett and Candice Bergen.

For Nadal, 31, it was his third US Open title (2010, 2013), his second major of the year after he won the French Open and the 16th Grand Slam title of his career. His arch rival Roger Federer, who lost here in the quarterfinals, remains the all-time men's leader with 19 majors. With the win, Nadal also solidified his grip on the year-end No. 1 ranking.

Nadal won the title -- and it's $3.7 million prize money -- without facing a top-10 seed during the tournament, the first time that has happened for a men's champion at a Grand Slam in the Open Era. He improved to 16-7 in Grand Slam finals, while Anderson is now 0-1 after reaching his maiden major final.

"For me, of course personally, it's just unbelievable what happened this year after a couple of years with some troubles, injuries, some moments playing not good," Nadal said in a post-match on-court interview. "Since the beginning of the season has been very, very emotional, no? Since Australia, I have been playing a very high level of tennis.

"Winning here in New York, that's one of the events that brings me to a higher energy of the world. The crowd here is unbelievable, makes me feel so so happy."

The win also means Toni Nadal, the player's uncle and longtime coach, will go out on top as a coach. Toni Nadal is stepping down as Rafael's traveling coach after this season after coaching him since he was 3.

"I can't thank him enough for all the things that he did for me," Nadal said. "Probably without him I never will be playing tennis. It's great that I had somebody like him pushing me all the time. That makes me stronger and I can just say thank you very much to him. He's for sure one of the most important persons in my life."

With Nadal's win here, 52 of the last 56 Grand Slam tournaments have been won by five men: Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

Nadal's return to No. 1 in the world this year included his 10th titles at the French Open and also in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He reached the Australian Open final in January, losing to Federer in five sets, and in the fourth round at Wimbledon, where he fell to Gilles Muller by 15-13 in the fifth set.

Anderson, who played college tennis at the University of Illinois and resides in Gulf Stream, Fla., became the first South African man to reach a Grand Slam final since Kevin Curren advanced to the Wimbledon final in 1985. Cliff Drysdale, in 1965, was the last South African to reach the final of the US Championships.

The bottom half of the draw opened up after No. 2 Andy Murray withdrew before the tournament with a hip injury, joining top players Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori on the injured list.

No. 4 Alexander Zverev and No. 5 Marin Cilic then lost during the first week of the tournament. The big-serving Anderson took advantage and took out American Sam Querrey in the quarterfinals and Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta, the No. 12 seed, in the semis.

In the first set against Nadal, Anderson tried to mix things up by serving-and-volleying, but Nadal broke Anderson's huge serve twice, winning the set on a lovely backhand drop volley winner.

Nadal then broke Anderson in the sixth game of the second set when he approached and smashed a forehand volley winner. On set point, he stroked a forehand crosscourt winner.

In the third set, Nadal broke Anderson immediately in the first game when the South African smacked a forehand long on break point.

On match point, Nadal closed it out with a backhand volley winner.

"It's been an amazing two weeks for me," Anderson said. "The competition is so strong, to come back and make the finals of my first Grand Slam, it's been a great two weeks.

"This isn't the result I would've wanted but I'll keep fighting and I'll be back."

Updated September 10, 2017