The King of Clay has once again assumed his throne -- this time on a hard court.
Rafael Nadal was victorious in the 2017 U.S. Open men's singles final Sunday, as he defeated Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, New York. It's the third U.S. Open title of Nadal's historic career and his 16th major singles title overall. He now trails Roger Federer by three for the most all-time Grand Slam titles in men's singles.
Anderson is one of the better servers in the world. According to the ATP World Tour's official site, he entered Sunday's match seventh in serve rating and tied for fifth in average aces per match (12.9). In his semifinal victory over Pablo Carreno Busta, Anderson had 22 aces and won 83 percent of his first-service points.
The rest of Anderson's game isn't nearly as strong, which left him with a narrow margin for error to pull off the upset. Not only did Anderson need to be at his best on serve, he also had to hope Nadal would make his fair share of mistakes.
Anderson and Nadal were neck-and-neck through the first six games of the opening set. With the set tied at 3-3, Nadal put himself in the driver's seat by breaking Anderson's serve to go ahead 4-3. And after holding serve in the eighth game, he broke Anderson again to take the first set 6-3. Entering Sunday, Nadal was 12-1 in Grand Slam finals when he won the first set, according to ESPN.
Even at 31 years old—an age at which tennis players generally begin to decline—Nadal has a good chance of matching and possibly surpassing Federer's major title record, assuming Federer remains at 19. Not only is Nadal one of the best players in the world, but ESPN The Magazine's Howard Bryant noted how Novak Djokovic's current absence due to an elbow injury leaves Nadal without one of his top challengers:
Nadal may have to wait until the 2018 French Open to earn his 17th major title. Although he reached the 2017 Australian Open final, his lone win at the event was in 2009.
Regardless, Nadal will head to Melbourne, Australia, as the odds-on favorite in January, especially if Djokovic's elbow injury lingers into next season.