The Globe’s Robert MacLeod curates the best of sports on the web Monday to Friday
Back and forth the amazing rally went, drawing hushed gasps from the capacity gathering at Flushing Meadows in New York, the two combatants resembling tennis metronomes for their uncanny ability to keep the ball in play.
And when the suspenseful moment at the 2013 U.S. Open finally passed, with Rafael Nadal stroking a backhand return into the net late in the second set, Novak Djokovic raised both hands into the air in celebration like a boxer who had just felled an opponent with a vicious uppercut.
As it unfolded, it was a premature celebration as Nadal was able to pick himself back up to earn a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 triumph to win his 13th Grand Slam title Monday night.
It was tennis at its best, as befitting two familiar opponents who were staring down one another for an Open record 37th occasion.
As Piers Newbery of BBC Sports summarized, the latest installment of the Nadal and Djokovic rivalry was “predictably electrifying.”
After Djokovic’s clenched fist celebration, a Nadal stumble at the baseline deep into the pivotal third set also seemed symbolic, “a turning point” as noted by Nicole Auerbach, writing for USA Today.
But Nadal, facing triple break point, picked himself up, serving an ace, his only one of the match, that brought the game to deuce, and the Spaniard would eventually hold serve.
Six points later Nadal had broken Djokovic to win the third set 6-4 to send him on his way.
Even for neutrals who cared not who won, it was a contest that had to be savoured, featuring the very best that tennis has to offer.
There was a time, as Paul Newman writing in The Independent noted, that it was the rivalry between Nadal and Roger Federer that was considered the most celebrated of the modern era in tennis.
“…his [Nadal] meetings with Djokovic have taken standards of play to a new level,” Newman said.
Christopher Clarey, writing in the New York Times, points out that the victory cements the status of Nadal as not just a clay court specialist but one of the all-time greats period.
As Steve Tignor states in his story for Tennis.com, any talk that Nadal is on the downside of his great career can be put to rest by his performance at the 2013 U.S. Open.
Monday Night Fumble
The last time we saw Robert Griffin III in a meaningful game, he was a sorry sight, trying to play through an obviously debilitating knee injury before it gave out for good in an NFL playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks in January.
The media-courting Washington Redskins quarterback made his much ballyhooed return to the playing field in a Monday Night Football telecast against the Philadelphia Eagles, and the moment was equally painful.
While RG3 insists his surgically-repaired knee is fine, his lackluster performance during a 33-27 loss to Michael Vick and the Eagles suggested otherwise to some.
Ross Jones, writing for FoxSports.com, categorized RG3’s play as timid.
The entrance of Griffin onto the football field before the opening kickoff was anything but understated, emerging from the tunnel to the strains of Enter Sandman by Metallica.
Wonder what Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees thinks about that?
After kneeling on both knees and pounding the turf with both hands, RG3 got up and hoisted a Red Skins flag as he pranced out onto the field.
But as Chris Burke wrote for SI.com, it was the Eagles who were able to steal the thunder from RG3.
Griffin was wearing a bulky brace to protect his knee which apparently was not something the NFL wanted to advertise to the fans.
As Mark Maske writes in the Washington Post, before the game the league ordered RG3 to cover the brace up with his uniform.