Five things we learned from the 2010 U.S. Open men's final
Rafael Nadal, who completed the career Grand Slam, is becoming scary good
Novak Djokovic should be commended for his valiant effort as runner-up
The USTA should build a covered stadium after a third straight delayed men's final
Five thoughts from the 2010 U.S. Open men's final:
Rafael Nadal, you're starting to scare us. The Spaniard completed the "Career Slam" -- winning all four majors -- Monday, defeating a game Novak Djokovic in a thoroughly engrossing final to take the 2010 U.S. Open. Nadal has now won nine majors and three straight. History beckons. He's the superhero who doesn't just catch the lightning bolts but whips them back. Watching Nadal blister serves, volley as well as anyone in the field, defend peerlessly and win anything resembling a "big point," one wonders a) how he hadn't won this event before and b) what, other than bad knees, can stop him for the next few years.
If Nadal emerges from this tournament as the big winner, Djokovic isn't far behind. Remember the wacky guy who did impersonations and got catcalls after a feud with Andy Roddick? Neither do we. Djokovic played sensational hardcourt tennis for two weeks. He stared down Roger Federer in the match of the year. Then, under adverse circumstances, he played a thoroughly courageous final, recalling the boxer willing to eat punches because he knows it's the only way he can win. We said before this tournament that, after a string of unsatisfying results, this was a make-or-break event for Djokovic. Suffice to say, he made.
Bless Jack Sock, the junior champion from Nebraska. And bless Ryan Harrison, who has a bright future. But those are hopes. The reality is that most big matches are like tonight's, pitting, as it did, a lefty from a Spanish Island against a workaholic from Belgrade, who happen to play tennis at a dizzyingly high level. Midway through the match 20,000 or so New Yorkers broke into an impromptu cheer of "Novak." They've come to know both players through the years, they've come to know they're personalities, they've come to know the context of this match. Sure it might have been easier if one guy was from Wichita and the other from Charlotte. But fans have to realize that this is an international sport with an individual cast, and you appreciate players regardless of their country of origin. Progress, we call it.
Nadal owes Roger Federer some Omaha steaks or somesuch. Stellar as Nadal was tonight -- and all tournament -- his job was made a bit easier by Djokovic's level of fatigue, the understandable legacy of that five-set masterpiece against Federer. Depending on your viewpoint, it's either weirdly fitting or doubly ironic that Federer gets an assist for this historic Nadal title. In this respect, perhaps we should be thankful for the Sunday rainout. If Djokovic felt as though he had cinderblocks tied to his ankles tonight, imagine how he would have felt on less than 24 hours of rest.
Build that roof, USTA. Thanks to Nadal's Herculean play and Djokovic's relentless fighting, this was a thrilling final, a semi-classic match that, mercifully, directed attention back to the tennis and away from meteorology, architecture and finance. But the fact remains: for the third straight year, the final weekend was shredded by rain and the absence of a contingency plan. Never mind the financial consequences, it's not good for tennis to see its premiere event in the U.S. torn asunder like this. We need some creative problem solving here.