Rafael Nadal thrashed South African Kevin Anderson in straight sets in Monday morning’s US Open final (AEST) to claim the 16th grand slam title of his glittering career.
The Spaniard won 6-3 6-3 6-4 in New York, needing just two hours and 27 minutes to win the event for the third time.
Nadal’s win capped an impressive 2017, in which he also won the French Open, while his old rival, Roger Federer, won both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
That both veterans were so dominant was surprising – but even more stunning was Nadal’s route to the Flushing Meadows title.
He did not meet a top-25 player through the whole tournament – something that has never been done before.
Nadal’s incredible fortune started when the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic all withdrew from the event due to injuries.
Gregor Dimitrov and David Goffin – seeded seventh and ninth respectively – then lost before Nadal was due to face them.
Perhaps the most lucky element of Nadal’s US Open triumph was Juan Martin Del Potro’s four-set win over Federer in the quarter-finals.
Spent from that win, Del Potro could not compete with Nadal in the resultant semi-final, and the 31-year-old was relatively comfortable in his win over Anderson.
Nadal won 84 per cent of points on his first serve throughout the contest, while he also won all 16 points when he came to the net.
He added 30 winners and managed to nullify Anderson’s big serve, even though the latter slammed down 10 aces.
“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 afterwards.
“Since the first important event of the year in Australia, I’ve been playing, I think, a very high level of tennis.
“[And I] closed the grand slam year winning here in New York.”
Journeyman Anderson hailed Nadal, adding: “We are the same age but I feel I’ve been watching you my whole life.
“You are an idol of mine. You are one of the greatest ambassadors of our sport.”
Nadal started brightly but Anderson also went for his shots in an exciting opening.
Anderson relied on his serve to hold off break chances at 1-1 and 2-2 but Nadal broke through in the seventh game of the opener.
It was just the advantage Nadal needed, going on to take the first set in 58 minutes.
The second set was much quicker, lasting just 39 minutes, as Nadal flexed his muscle, winning 16 of 17 points on his first serve.
And although Anderson fought on impressively in the third set, he had no answer for his more-fancied opponent.