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Classy Nadal crushes Anderson to claim his third US Open title

By Eleanor Crooks

Rafael Nadal proved far too good for Kevin Anderson as he claimed a 16th grand slam title at the US Open.

The world number one lived up to his billing as the heavy favourite with a 6-3 6-3 6-4 victory over surprise finalist Anderson.

It completed a throwback year in men's tennis at the slams, with Nadal and Roger Federer claiming all the titles between them for the first time since 2010.

Nadal, who now has three US Open titles, has once again closed to within three of Federer's all-time record of 19 slam singles titles, while the 'big four' can now lay claim to 46 of the last 51.

There have been highs and lows in New York since Nadal's maiden title seven years ago but this was one of his most dominant performances, with the 31-year-old losing just 15 points on serve in the match and not facing a single break point.

Anderson's big victory was simply in making it to his first grand slam final, taking advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime in a weakened bottom half of the draw.

It has been a superb two weeks for the likeable South African, the first from his country to make a slam singles final for more than 30 years.

On paper it looked a mismatch. Two players born less than a month apart, one playing in his first grand slam final and one his 23rd.

One crumb of comfort for Anderson was that Nadal had lost his last eight hard-court finals dating back to a title in Doha in January 2014, a run that included two Australian Open final defeats. Nadal began this tournament with some doubts in his head after unexpected defeats at Wimbledon and in the lead-up events.

But he has rediscovered the knack that has served him so well during his career of playing himself into top form and confidence through a grand slam.

His struggles against Taro Daniel and Leonardo Mayer were a distant memory as he raced through the last three sets against Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-finals for the loss of just five games.

Nadal had a read on the Anderson serve straight away and piled on the pressure, forcing four break points in the South African's first three service games. Anderson held on but the pressure became too much and Nadal won the final four games of the opening set.

The Spaniard was standing so deep to return 6ft 8in Anderson's serve that the line judges must have feared for their safety but it was working. Anderson tried to combat the tactic by coming to the net but, although he wins a lot of points that way, he is not a natural volleyer and Nadal is the master of discomfort for opponents. Anderson at last had some relief on his serve early in the second set but Nadal broke through again to lead 4-2.

The Spaniard, meanwhile, was cruising through his own service games, losing just seven points in the first two sets combined.

Everything about Nadal's game was working and there was total conviction in his mind whereas Anderson appeared out of ideas when he blasted a forehand over the baseline and was broken again at the start of the third. Given his lack of success on Nadal's serve, that all but sealed it, and the Spaniard clinched victory with a backhand volley after two hours and 27 minutes.

• Britain's Alfie Hewett was beaten by Stephane Houdet in the final of the wheelchair singles at the US Open.

The 19-year-old from Norfolk succumbed to fatigue and the experience of 46-year-old Frenchman Houdet, losing 6-2 4-6 6-3.

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