By Ann Liguori
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It was a battle befitting of the two top players in the game. The unfortunate thing is that one of the two had to lose. Both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal brought their ‘all’ to the court and put on a four hour slugfest that could rank up there with the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier slugfest in October 1975 which ended with an Ali TKO in the 14th round. Similar to what Frazier said after that bout, that he ‘hit him with punches that would have brought down the walls of a city,” Nadal hit Djokovic with everything he had but it was not good enough to beat the 24-year-old Serb whose game has reached incredible heights.

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Djokovic prevailed over the 25-year-old Spaniard, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, (3-7), 6-1. The scores hardly indicate the intensity of the battle as the points were long, the rallies were powerful and thrilling, the winners were dazzling and the match became a battle of endurance and stamina with Djokovic pulling out winners that left you speechless. There were 17 breaks of service with Djokovic winning 11 of them. There was a game that lasted over 17 minutes and several games where Djokovic needed 5 and 6 break points before converting.

Djokovic was down love-2 at the start of the first two sets before rallying. And just when you thought he would wrap it up in straight sets, Nadal fought back like a bull to take the third set in a tie-breaker. It looked like Nadal had turned the tide of the match and that it may go the distance, but after Djokovic held serve to take the first game in the fourth set, he took a medical time-out for a strained muscle in his back. The trainer came out, worked on him for approximately 6 minutes, and when Djokovic resumed, he looked as fresh as a daisy. The fourth set was all Djokovic; Nadal’s tank seemed depleted, finally giving in to the guy who took over his number one ranking earlier this season.

And perhaps, most notably than the intense level of tennis, is the classiness both these athletes show. The first question in the post-match press conference to Nadal was whether Djokovic’s six minute injury time-out affected him, and Nadal responded: “We are starting the press conference in a bad way, I think,” he said with a smile. “Let’s talk about the match. It’s not the right moment to find excuses if he stops the match or if I was tired. I fought until the last point. I tried my best in every moment.” He added, “But in general, I think he did great, no?”

Both players thanked the crowd throughout the week and expressed their support to New York and to the people who lost loved ones on 9/11. Djokovic entered the Ashe Stadium Court wearing a FDNY hat, which he put back on after the match for the awards ceremony.

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Djokovic beat Nadal for the sixth straight time this year, twice this year in Grand Slam tournaments, but anytime these two great champions meet, you know you’re in for a breathtaking battle.

It has been Djokovic’s year, winning his third Grand Slam Championship of the year, achieving a 63-2 record. This champion has it all – the skill, the talent, the instincts and the personality to achieve new heights in the game. This year may only be the beginning!


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