Rafael Nadal put the seal on a throwback year for men’s tennis by winning his 16th grand slam title at the US Open.
With the Spaniard also claiming his 10th French Open title and Roger Federer winning in Australia and Wimbledon, it is the first time for seven years that the sport’s two biggest superstars have swept its greatest prizes.
Once Federer lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals in New York, it was always likely that Nadal would take home the trophy.
And he proved far too strong for first-time finalist Kevin Anderson, winning 6-3 6-3 6-4 in two hours and 27 minutes.
The renewed dominance of Federer and Nadal would have been scarcely believable at the end of last season, when injuries put question marks over both of their futures.
“Of course I am surprised,” said Nadal. “But I was surprised in January. Now I am not that much surprised.
“After the first two, three months of the season, you see that I am playing well, and if I am playing well on clay, I normally am going to have my chances.
“Of course he was playing great, so of course he will have his chances on grass and on hard later, like he had here.”
Nadal’s victory saw him again close to within three grand slam titles of Federer at the top of the all-time list – how different that would look had the Spaniard not the Swiss edged their dramatic battle in the Australian Open final.
Given Nadal is 31 to Federer’s 36, the prospect of the former eventually overtaking the latter appears distinctly possible once more.
It’s a bird…it’s a plane…
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 11, 2017
“I really never thought much about that,” insisted Nadal. “I just do my way. He does his way. Let’s see when we finish.
“Of course if I will win two grand slams this year and he will not win, we’ll be closer, but he has 19, I have 16. So three is a big difference.
“I’m very happy with all the things that are happening to me, winning this title again. I have this trophy with me.
“It’s so important, winning on hard court again. That’s a lot of positive energy for me. Being healthy, you see everything more possible. With injuries, everything seems impossible.
“It’s true that I am 31, I am not 25, but I still have the passion and the love for the game. I still want to compete and still feel the nerves every time that I go on court. While those things keep happening, I will be here.”
This has been a special season also because it is the last Nadal will share on the road with his uncle Toni, who has been his coach since he first picked up a racket aged three.
Toni will stay at home in Majorca to concentrate on the family’s tennis academy, with Carlos Moya taking over the reins.
Toni has been a famously tough taskmaster for his nephew but he could have few complaints about Nadal’s performance against Anderson.
Nadal put pressure on the serve of the 6ft 8in South African from the start and the result appeared inevitable once he broke for the first time in the seventh game.
— Kevin Anderson (@KAndersonATP) September 11, 2017
The world number one, meanwhile, did not face a single break point, losing just 15 points on serve all match.
The 31-year-old, for whom this was a first title of any sort on hard courts since January 2014, said: “I think I played the right match, the match that I have to play.
“I put a lot of balls in. I let him play all the time, and that was my goal. To try to have long rallies, because he will try to play short.
“I’m very happy the way that I played, happy the way that I managed the pressure, and the way that I was competing during the whole event. Playing better or worse, the competitive spirit has been there in a very positive way all the time.”
At 31, Anderson was the oldest first-time grand slam finalist for more than 40 years having taken advantage of the wide open bottom half of the draw.
The genial South African celebrated his semi-final victory over Pablo Carreno Busta by climbing into the stands to hug his supporters and the feeling then was he had probably already played his final.
He said: “Obviously I’m very pleased to have made my way through to the finals and having that experience. Few players get that chance.
“It’s very tough. To step out on court against Rafa tonight, I learned a lot of lessons. It was a difficult match, up against somebody who has been on that stage over 20 times before. There’s definitely a few things I needed to have done better.”
Sloane Stephens won her first Grand Slam title on Saturday, beating fellow American Madison Keys 6-3, 6-0 in the final.
She then conducted a news conference which will go down as one of the more entertaining in the sport’s history.
AFP Sports looks at Stephens in full flow in New York:
ON NIGHT BEFORE FINAL
“I was literally in my room twiddling my thumbs, like, looking at, like – I literally 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.”
ON HER COLLEGE STUDIES
“First of all, I’m totally not going to graduate. I haven’t done any work for two weeks. I don’t think I’m going to make it. My graduation date is December 14th, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. My professors actually texted me, so maybe they’ll let me, you know, slide.”
ON ONLY SIX UNFORCED ERRORS
“Shut the front door. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before. Oh, my God. That’s a stat. Snaps for me.”
ON WANTING ANOTHER SLAM WIN
“Of course, Girl. Did you see that check that lady handed me? Like, yes. Man, if that doesn’t make you want to play tennis, I don’t know what will. Man.”
ON HER TROPHY CEREMONY
“Because I was, like, this is a picture they are probably going to use and I look terrible. That’s what I remember most about the picture. Sorry.”
Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys sent the internet into a frenzy thanks to their gracious and incredibly touching reaction to Stephens’ US Open title triumph on Saturday.
The two Americans are close friends and shared some emotional moments after Stephens claimed a 6-3, 6-0 win over Keys.
Stephens and Keys both embraced in tears at the net then sat side by side while the trophy ceremony was being prepared.
They paid tribute to one another in their speeches, smiling and laughing after the biggest match of their respective careers.
Here’s a sample of the reaction to what was a memorable night in New York.
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) September 9, 2017
— andyroddick (@andyroddick) September 9, 2017
Yes!!! Congrats @SloaneStephens The first of many!
— scott foley (@scottkfoley) September 9, 2017
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) September 9, 2017
— Elena Vesnina (@EVesnina001) September 9, 2017
Amazing! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/JvYCcikn65
— Jill Craybas (@jcray74) September 9, 2017
— Kristina Mladenovic (@KikiMladenovic) September 9, 2017
— Yanina Wickmayer (@yaninawickmaye8) September 9, 2017
This is how our sport should always be 😭❤️ https://t.co/tLjLQBJviD
— Katie Swan (@Katieswan99) September 9, 2017
@SloaneStephens congratulazioni BELLA!!!! I’m so happy for you 💋💋💋
— Flavia Pennetta (@flavia_pennetta) September 9, 2017
— Uzo Aduba (@UzoAduba) September 9, 2017
That moment at the net after the match 🙊😍. Congrats to both!!! @usopen
— Vicky Duval (@vicky_duval95) September 9, 2017
Who’s cutting onions 😅😭 #USOpen
— Laura Robson (@laurarobson5) September 9, 2017
I’m not crying you’re crying https://t.co/YgzfT94vp1
— Nicole Gibbs (@Gibbsyyyy) September 9, 2017
Life goes on…
Sloane Stephens Madison Keys pic.twitter.com/ZCO104GHQm
— Ashish TV (@Ashish__TV) September 9, 2017
Well deserved moment for @SloaneStephens, the new US Open champ. Love it when good things happen to good people.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 9, 2017