Julie Jacobson, Associated Press
Rafael Nadal, of Spain, reacts after beating Kevin Anderson, of South Africa, to win the men’s singles final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in New York.
NEW YORK — Rafael Nadal against Kevin Anderson in the U.S. Open final shaped up as quite a mismatch — and that’s exactly what it was.
His game at a high level at the end of an unusually easy path through a Grand Slam field, Nadal overwhelmed first-time major finalist Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday to win his third championship at Flushing Meadows.
It is the No. 1-ranked Nadal’s second Grand Slam title of the year and 16th overall. Among men, only Roger Federer has more, with 19.
Each of those two longtime rivals won two of the four majors in 2017, marking a return of both to the heights of their sport.
Not only didn’t an injury-hampered Nadal win a Grand Slam tournament in 2015 or 2016 — his first such shutouts since 2004, when he was still a teenager — but he didn’t even make it to a final in that span. Seems safe to say that, at age 31, he is once again the Nadal of old.
“Personally, it’s just unbelievable what happened this year,” Nadal said, “after a couple of years with some troubles, injuries, some moments playing not good.”
At No. 32, Anderson was the lowest-ranked U.S. Open men’s finalist since the ATP computer rankings began in 1973. The 31-year-old South African never had been past the quarterfinals at any major tournament in 33 previous appearances, so when he won his semifinal on Friday, he climbed into the stands to celebrate.
There would be no such joy for him on this day. Nadal simply dominated every facet of the 2½-hour final.
“I know we’re the same age, but I feel like I’ve been watching you my whole life,” said Anderson, who is less than a month older than Nadal. “You really have been an idol of mine. And it’s tough playing you. You proved it again tonight.”
Nadal added to his U.S. Open triumphs in 2010 and 2013 and improved to 16-7 in Grand Slam finals. For the first time since 2013, he appeared in three in a…