'Passion' drives Nadal to US Open title

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal put his remarkable resurgence down to his “love for the game” after claiming a 16th Grand Slam title at the US Open.

The 31-year-old Spaniard beat South Africa’s Kevin Anderson 6-3 6-3 6-4 to win his third title in New York.

Following his French Open success in June, it is the first time since 2013 that Nadal has won two Slams in a year.

“I wake up every morning with the passion to go on court and to try to improve things,” he said.

“I still want to compete and still feel the nerves every time that I go on court. While that keeps happening, I will be here.

“When some day arrives that I don’t feel the nerves or that extra passion for the game that I feel, it will be the day to say, ‘OK, I do another thing.’

“I am 31, I’m not 25, but I still have the passion and the love for the game.”

Match stats
Nadal Anderson
1 Aces 10
1 Double faults 4
63% First serve 59%
84% Pts won on 1st serve 73%
70% Pts won on 2nd serve 36%
30 Winners 32
11 Unforced errors 40

Nadal’s victory took him three away from Roger Federer’s all-time record of 19 Grand Slam titles, and the pair shared all four major victories between them in 2017.

That came after both men ended their 2016 seasons early through injury, casting doubts on their ability to even challenge for the biggest titles again.

“I just can say thanks to life for that opportunity,” said Nadal.

“Probably that’s why I still have chances to compete in this sport and to do it well. That’s all.”

Grand Slams: Rafa v Roger

Most men's Grand Slam titles

Had Nadal converted his lead over Federer, 36, in the final set of this year’s Australian Open final in January, there would be just one major title between the pair.

“I really never thought much about that,” said the Spaniard. “I just do my way. He does his way. Let’s see when we finish.

“Three is a big difference. I really don’t think much about these kind of things.

“I’m very happy with all the things that are happening to me, to win this title again. I have this trophy with me.”

Coaching changes in Nadal camp

Tiger Woods

The US Open was the last Grand Slam tournament in which Nadal was accompanied by his uncle Toni, the man who first put a racquet in his hand when was three years old.

Former world number one Carlos Moya, a close friend of Nadal, will take on coaching duties alongside long-time team member Francis Roig from next year.

Toni Nadal will take on the running of his nephew’s tennis academy in Majorca, which opened last year, although the world number one did not completely rule out a return to the player box for his uncle.

“He’s going to stop and going to put more attention on the academy. That would be great for my academy, and will be great for the kids,” said Nadal.

“That doesn’t mean that Toni will not travel any more. No, no, I believe that it will be stupid to say that.

“But of course he will not be in the diary of my practices and of my travels.”

Rafael Nadal

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Rafael Nadal wins US Open with straight-set win over Kevin Anderson

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal won his third US Open and 16th Grand Slam title with a one-sided victory over South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in New York.

The world number one powered to a 6-3 6-3 6-4 victory in Sunday’s final at Flushing Meadows.

The Spaniard, 31, has now won two Slams in the same year for the first time since 2013, having won the French Open in June.

More to follow.

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Hewett loses US Open wheelchair singles final

Alfie Hewett

Britain’s Alfie Hewett was beaten 6-2 4-6 6-3 by France’s Stephane Houdet in the US Open wheelchair singles final.

Hewett had hoped to add the title to the doubles trophy he won on Saturday.

But Hewett, who won his maiden Grand Slam singles trophy at the French Open this summer, succumbed to fatigue.

Hewett, 19, beat compatriot Gordon Reid in a three-hour semi-final on Saturday before teaming up with the Scot to defeat 46-year-old Houdet and Nicolas Peifer in the doubles final later on.

“Congratulations to Steph for a great final,” said Hewett. “I just didn’t have enough in the tank after such an exhausting singles and doubles yesterday.

“But I’m proud to be in the final in my first time here. There’s a lot of positives to take and hopefully I can be back next year.”

The teenager was outplayed by Houdet in the opening set but recovered from a break down in the second to level when the Frenchman double-faulted.

However, Hewitt failed to hold his serve once in the final set and Houdet clinched his first Grand Slam singles title in four years.

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US Open men's final: Rafael Nadal set for Kevin Anderson challenge

Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson

US Open men’s final
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: Sunday, 10 September Time: 21:00 BST
BBC coverage: Live radio and text commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, the BBC Sport website and app.

Top seed Rafael Nadal will start as a strong favourite when he takes on South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in Sunday’s US Open final at 21:00 BST.

The Spaniard, bidding for a 16th Grand Slam title, will play in his 23rd major final, but Anderson is making his debut in a Slam final.

The pair, both 31, have known each other since junior days, and Nadal has won all four previous meetings.

“I’m happy for him because I know him since we were 12,” said Nadal.

“It’s great to see him in a final of one of the most important events of the year.”

Nadal and Anderson

‘I am happy if I am healthy’

Nadal has enjoyed a spectacular resurgence in 2017, reaching the Australian Open final before winning his first major title for three years at the French Open, and last month regaining the number one ranking.

He now has the chance to add a third US Open victory to those of 2010 and 2013, on the hard courts which he has found so punishing on his knees throughout his career.

“For me, what is more important than winning Slams is to be happy,” said Nadal.

“I am happy if I am healthy and happy if I feel competitive in most of the weeks that I am playing, and that’s what happened this year.

“Of course winning or losing that final is a big change, but I am very happy about all the things that happen to me and I am going to fight to win another title here.

“But it’s still been a great season for me.”

Nadal was in magnificent form in his semi-final win over Juan Martin del Potro, winning the battle of the forehands with 25 winners off his favourite side.

At 6ft 8in tall, Anderson’s serve is his major weapon – he leads the tournament with 114 aces – and the South African has been more aggressive with his ground game in New York.

He has hit 250 winners off his forehand to Nadal’s 201 after six matches.

“I am playing well almost the whole season,” said Nadal.

“I was playing so-so at the beginning of the tournament, and I have been playing better and better every day.

“Now remains the last match against a very tough opponent, and I need to be ready for it.

“He’s a huge player with an unbelievable serve and he plays so well on these kinds of surfaces.

“It’s probably the most important match for me that remains of this year, so I’m going to try to play my best.”

‘I knew in my mind there was opportunity’

Anderson took advantage of a rare moment in the bottom half of the draw, with no Grand Slam finalists left after Marin Cilic was beaten in round three.

Second seed Andy Murray withdrew on the eve of the tournament through injury, before the likes of Cilic, fourth seed Alexander Zverev and seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov lost early.

Kevin Anderson

“I knew in my mind there was opportunity there, but I must be honest, I didn’t focus really too much on that,” said Anderson.

“We are sort of accustomed to the few guys doing well, exceptional consistency.

“It’s tough beating those guys because they have had so much experience at this level.

“Even with them out, there have still been a lot of challenges I’ve had to face throughout this week. I have faced some of the best tennis players in the world.”

Anderson, 31, has struggled with injuries throughout his career, a hip problem putting him out of the Australian Open and leg and elbow issues forcing withdrawals since then.

A photo of a young Nadal and Anderson

“I feel like in the last while, definitely things have turned around,” he said.

“I think it started on the clay courts, getting more matches under my belt. I just feel like I have been constantly taking steps in the right direction.”

The ecstatic South African climbed into the stands to celebrate with his team after his semi-final win over Pablo Carreno Busta, but knows he will need to play the match of his life if he is to repeat that journey.

“Nadal is one of the greatest competitors in sports, period,” said Anderson.

“He’s an amazing fighter. He really controls the court well, the few times I have played him.

“I really need to be dominant and control proceedings as much as possible, because if you let him do it, it’s very difficult.”

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'That's insane' – six-week journey from world number 957 to US Open champion

Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens was planning to spend Saturday night in New York celebrating with Madison Keys, hours after beating her friend to a first Grand Slam title.

The 24-year-old American, ranked 83rd until Monday, thrashed 15th seed Keys 6-3 6-0 in just 61 minutes to complete a scarcely believable return from injury.

Asked if she would be buying the drinks, Stephens confirmed: “Yes, a lot of them apparently. We are having a little celebration and she is coming.”

Just 69 days after returning from an 11-month injury lay-off, and six weeks since her ranking dropped to 957, Stephens became only the fifth unseeded woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open era.

And she later revealed it was boredom as much as nerves that threatened to upset her equilibrium during the 48 hours between semi-final and final at Flushing Meadows.

“I was literally in my room twiddling my thumbs,’ she said. “I was looking at car reviews last night on Auto Trader, like literally. That’s how bored I was. I didn’t have anything to do.”

Stephens admitted that the nerves finally took hold as she stepped out onto Arthur Ashe Stadium – but a little over an hour later her eyes were bulging as a cheque for $3.7m (£2.8m) was handed to her and she was announced as a Grand Slam champion.

She said: “There are no words to describe how I got here, because if you told someone this story they’d be, like, ‘that’s insane’.”

‘There is no positive to not being able to walk’

Sloane Stephens quote

It is four years since Stephens first grabbed worldwide headlines when she beat compatriot Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarter-finals.

The likes of NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and Dirk Nowitzki, and singer John Legend, congratulated her on social media, and a star had seemingly been born.

In the event, progress was harder going until 2016 when she won three titles, cementing her place in the top 30 and apparently on the up.

A right foot stress fracture halted that momentum, forcing her to withdraw from the US Open last August, and she would not return until Wimbledon.

Surgery followed in January and for the next 16 weeks Stephens was on crutches and unable to put any pressure on her foot.

Just a month before Wimbledon, she was still wearing a protective boot.

“There is no positive to not being able to walk and being on one leg,” said Stephens. “That’s not fun for anyone.”

Finally, Stephens stepped back on court in July – and first-round defeats at Wimbledon and in Washington were entirely predictable. Her ranking plummeted to 957.

What followed was, in her own words on Saturday night, “insane”.

The victory over Keys was her 15th in 17 matches, the kind of form shown by someone vying to be number one rather than avoid slipping outside the top 1,000.

“When I had surgery, I was not thinking that I would be anywhere near a US Open title,” she said.

“Nor did I think I was going to be anywhere near the top 100.”

‘Sloane’s been amazing with adversity’

Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens

Sybil Smith made her tournament debut in the player box for the final as her daughter made history.

“It was nice that we got it right for the two weeks, and I came out with the title,” said Stephens.

It is eight years since Stephens attended her father’s funeral on the eve of the US Open, after he died in a car accident in Louisiana.

Estranged from the family, John Stephens had been a running back in the NFL for the New England Patriots, the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

But it was her mother, Sybil, an all-American swimmer, who brought up Stephens, and that included introducing the nine-year-old to tennis.

“Obviously my whole life my mum has been very supportive,” said Stephens. “She’s been in my corner the whole time.

“I have had a lot of ups and a lot of downs – and some really low downs – and throughout that, my mum has been there 100% with me.”

It was at a tennis academy in her native Florida that Stephens learned the game, and also where she met Laura Robson as an 11-year-old.

The British number four, 23, was clearly moved on Saturday night by seeing two of her friends and contemporaries on the US Open presentation stage, posting on social media: “Who’s cutting onions?”

Robson might use both women as inspiration for her own struggle back up the rankings following injury.

Stephens has spent as much time in 2017 as a TV presenter on a US tennis channel – what Keys described as “her second job” – as she has on court, helping fill her time during the 11-month injury lay-off.

Describing herself as in “a sad place”, the television work proved to be a boost to morale.

Paul Annacone, ex-coach of Pete Sampras, worked with Stephens for eight months in 2014, and again on her TV work this year. He believes the extended break from tennis had some benefit.

“I think it has helped Sloane become more focused and realise that the window is closing, ever so slightly,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

“That’s allowed her to go on court with a much more relentless ability to compete and deal with adversity.

“I think historically she has got a little bit nervous in stages, and then when adversity has set in she’s struggled a little bit to compete through it.

“This summer, Sloane’s been amazing with adversity.”

The semi-final victory over fellow American Venus Williams in New York took her record in three-set matches this summer to 8-0.

Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys

‘He should have got a hat-trick’

Stephens will not be short of family and friends, including Keys, to celebrate with in New York.

Her coach, Kamau Murray, and team have exuded calm, happily posing with fans in the public plaza at Flushing Meadows earlier in the week.

It is unlikely Serena Williams joined the party eight days after giving birth to her first child, but the 23-time Grand Slam champion posted her support on social media before the final.

“There are NO words to describe how proud and how happy I am,” Williams said on Twitter.

One person absent from the player box on Arthur Ashe Stadium was Stephens’ boyfriend, Jozy Altidore, a former forward for Sunderland in the Premier League, now leading the line for Toronto FC.

Otherwise engaged in MLS action against San Jose, he revealed that he found out the result of the final from his mother in the stands at half-time.

Altidore then scored twice in the second half of a 4-0 win.

“That’s really good,” said Stephens, before adding: “He should have got a hat-trick. It would have been such a good day. Goodness.”

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Nadal favourite to win 16th Slam title as he faces Anderson in US Open final

Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson

US Open men’s final
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: Sunday, 10 September Time: 21:00 BST
BBC coverage: Live radio and text commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, the BBC Sport website and app.

Top seed Rafael Nadal will start as a strong favourite when he takes on South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in Sunday’s US Open final at 21:00 BST.

The Spaniard, bidding for a 16th Grand Slam title, will play in his 23rd major final, but Anderson is making his debut in a Slam final.

The pair, both 31, have known each other since junior days, and Nadal has won all four previous meetings.

“I’m happy for him because I know him since we were 12,” said Nadal.

“It’s great to see him in a final of one of the most important events of the year.”

Nadal and Anderson

‘I am happy if I am healthy’

Nadal has enjoyed a spectacular resurgence in 2017, reaching the Australian Open final before winning his first major title for three years at the French Open, and last month regaining the number one ranking.

He now has the chance to add a third US Open victory to those of 2010 and 2013, on the hard courts which he has found so punishing on his knees throughout his career.

“For me, what is more important than winning Slams is to be happy,” said Nadal.

“I am happy if I am healthy and happy if I feel competitive in most of the weeks that I am playing, and that’s what happened this year.

“Of course winning or losing that final is a big change, but I am very happy about all the things that happen to me and I am going to fight to win another title here.

“But it’s still been a great season for me.”

Nadal was in magnificent form in his semi-final win over Juan Martin del Potro, winning the battle of the forehands with 25 winners off his favourite side.

At 6ft 8in tall, Anderson’s serve is his major weapon – he leads the tournament with 114 aces – and the South African has been more aggressive with his ground game in New York.

He has hit 250 winners off his forehand to Nadal’s 201 after six matches.

“I am playing well almost the whole season,” said Nadal.

“I was playing so-so at the beginning of the tournament, and I have been playing better and better every day.

“Now remains the last match against a very tough opponent, and I need to be ready for it.

“He’s a huge player with an unbelievable serve and he plays so well on these kinds of surfaces.

“It’s probably the most important match for me that remains of this year, so I’m going to try to play my best.”

‘I knew in my mind there was opportunity’

Anderson took advantage of a rare moment in the bottom half of the draw, with no Grand Slam finalists left after Marin Cilic was beaten in round three.

Second seed Andy Murray withdrew on the eve of the tournament through injury, before the likes of Cilic, fourth seed Alexander Zverev and seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov lost early.

Kevin Anderson

“I knew in my mind there was opportunity there, but I must be honest, I didn’t focus really too much on that,” said Anderson.

“We are sort of accustomed to the few guys doing well, exceptional consistency.

“It’s tough beating those guys because they have had so much experience at this level.

“Even with them out, there have still been a lot of challenges I’ve had to face throughout this week. I have faced some of the best tennis players in the world.”

Anderson, 31, has struggled with injuries throughout his career, a hip problem putting him out of the Australian Open and leg and elbow issues forcing withdrawals since then.

A photo of a young Nadal and Anderson

“I feel like in the last while, definitely things have turned around,” he said.

“I think it started on the clay courts, getting more matches under my belt. I just feel like I have been constantly taking steps in the right direction.”

The ecstatic South African climbed into the stands to celebrate with his team after his semi-final win over Pablo Carreno Busta, but knows he will need to play the match of his life if he is to repeat that journey.

“Nadal is one of the greatest competitors in sports, period,” said Anderson.

“He’s an amazing fighter. He really controls the court well, the few times I have played him.

“I really need to be dominant and control proceedings as much as possible, because if you let him do it, it’s very difficult.”

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Sloane Stephens beats Madison Keys to win US Open

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US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 28 Aug-10 Sept
BBC coverage: Live radio and text commentary.

Unseeded Sloane Stephens completed a spectacular return from injury by beating fellow American Madison Keys to win the US Open at Flushing Meadows.

Stephens, ranked 83rd, beat 15th seed Keys 6-3 6-0 in the final.

The 24-year-old was ranked as low as 957th six weeks ago, having only returned from 11 months out with a foot injury at Wimbledon.

She becomes only the fifth unseeded woman to win a major title in the Open era.

Both women were making their Grand Slam final debuts, and their combined ranking of 99 was the lowest for a US Open final since the rankings began.

Close friends since childhood, they shared a long hug at the net after Keys netted a forehand on the third match point, and Stephens then headed into the crowd to embrace her mother.

More to follow.

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'It's going to be tough' – friends Stephens & Keys set for US Open final

Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys

US Open women’s final
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Date: Saturday, 10 September Time: 21:00 BST
BBC coverage: Live radio and text commentary .

Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens will meet in the first all-American women’s final at the US Open in 15 years.

The pair, close friends, will make their Grand Slam final debuts on Arthur Ashe Stadium at 21:00 BST on Saturday.

Both players returned at Wimbledon after having surgery this year, 15th seed Keys on her wrist and unseeded Stephens on her foot.

Serena and Venus Williams were the last Americans to line up against each other in the US Open women’s final in 2002.

Serena is absent this year after giving birth to her first child, and Venus was beaten by Stephens in the semi-finals.

The winner will be the first woman from the United States outside of the Williams final to claim a major singles title since Jennifer Capriati at the 2002 Australian Open.

Neither of Saturday’s finalists were even playing at this year’s first Grand Slam in Australia as they were both injured.

“I was actually laughing and thinking, who would have thought in Australia that Sloane and I would be the finalists at the US Open?” said Keys.

Sloane Stephens

‘I was in a walking boot a month before Wimbledon’

Both women were highly-rated prospects at a young age, each reaching the Australian Open semi-finals at the age of 19, and their careers remained on an upward trajectory until injuries last year.

Stephens, 24, was ranked 957th in the world six weeks ago, having spent 11 months out of the game with a foot injury that required surgery.

She has returned in spectacular form, taking her recent record to 14 wins in 16 matches when she won a thrilling final set against Williams on Thursday.

“I knew that it was going to be tough,” said Stephens.

“I was in a walking boot like a month before I played Wimbledon. I knew I was going to have to play my way into shape, and I think I’ve done that pretty well.”

Keys, 22, had wrist surgery last November but continued to feel pain after coming back in March, and needed another operation after the French Open in June.

“It’s been a big weight off of my shoulders and I’m playing really free,” said Keys.

“More than anything, I’m just really, really enjoying my time on the court. I think that’s been a massive part of why I have been playing well.”

Madison Keys

‘She’s one of my closest friends on tour’

The pair know each other well but have met just once professionally, with Stephens winning in two sets in Miami two years ago.

That did nothing to damage their off-court relationship.

“She’s probably one of my closest friends on tour,” Stephens said of Keys.

“Love her to death. It’s obviously going to be tough. It’s not easy playing a friend.”

Both powerful, Keys is the more attacking player, which can often lead to as many errors as winners, but in her semi-final against Coco Vandeweghe she had the balance absolutely right.

“Everything kind of just worked for me, and if I wanted to go in a certain spot, that’s where I went, and it seemed like it worked,” said Keys.

“Playing Sloane, I know she’s going to get a lot of balls back, and she’s going to reset the point over and over again.

“I’m just going to have to be patient, not go for too much too soon and just try to keep building points until I finally have the right ball.”

Despite the foot surgery, Stephens showed in her win over Williams that her athletic defensive skills remain a major part of her game.

“I’ve got a lot of matches in. I’ve run a lot. I’ve played a couple of three-setters,” she said.

“So, yeah, I think my movement is probably what’s kind of kept me in some of these matches, shockingly.”

Serena praises Keys & Stephens

Six-time US open champion Serena Williams used her first social media messages since becoming a mother a week ago to congratulate Keys and Stephens on reaching the final.

“There are NO words to describe how proud and how happy I am for @Madison-Keys keys and @SloaneStephens for making the US open finals,” Williams tweeted.

Serena Williams

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