A prediction: Rafael Nadal will never win another U.S. Open.
That might sound like a bold statement, coming less than 24 hours after the Mallorcan matador withstood a pair of rain delays and a stringy Serb to win the Super Bowl of American tennis, completing a career Grand Slam — he's just the seventh man (and youngest) to do so — and anointing Lil Wayne a tennis guru.
But it really isn't. Nadal planned his entire 2010 season around the U.S. Open — until Monday, the only major he had not won. He scaled back his schedule to make sure his surprisingly fragile 24-year-old knees would hold up for two weeks on the hardcourts of Queens. He cranked up his serve to 135 mph. He embraced the rowdy New York night crowds. He sang Gaga. He shrugged off the loss of that $500,000 watch, stolen in Toronto.
With the U.S. Open securely in his pocket, Nadal now has nothing to prove in Flushing. He'll now focus on catching Roger Federer's 16 Grand Slam wins (Rafa has nine, three more than Roger did at his age). And his best shot for doing that is on the clay of Paris, the grass of Wimbledon, even the hardcourts of Melbourne — which, since the Australian Open is in January, are easier on Nadal's sultry Spanish frame.
All of this means a Nadal-Federer final at the Open, the cream-dream of American tennis fans for the last four years, may never happen. And even if it does, the historic luster of it has been permanently dulled, thanks to Nadal's heavy ball-smacking (and strategic wedgie-picking) against Novak Djokovic, tennis's answer to Screech, on Monday. "It would have been great for our sport," John McEnroe said during the ho-hum women's final on Saturday night, sounding more than a bit disappointed.
And don't think Federer doesn't know this. "I would have loved to play against him here," Federer said a few minutes after Djokovic's ridiculous, eyes-closed match point saves late Saturday afternoon killed Rafa-Roger I. "I mean, I did my hard yards the last six years making it to the finals, and he was unfortunately never there. That's obviously disappointing. And now one point away from this happening, obviously it's a bit of disappointment. Now we'll never know how it would have gone."