Rafael Nadal capped a remarkable Grand Slam season at the 2017 US Open, capturing two major titles in the same year for the first time since 2013.
In doing so, the Spaniard became just the sixth man in the Open era to win three or more US Open men’s singles titles.
In addition to this year's title, Nadal won US Open championships in 2010 and 2013, his three crowns matching Ivan Lendl (1985-87) and trailing only John McEnroe (1979-81, 84) and a trio of five-time winners: Jimmy Connors (1974, 76, 78, 82-83), Roger Federer (2004-08) and Pete Sampras (1990, 93, 95-96, 2002).
It is an elite group. Federer, Nadal and Sampras are Nos. 1-3 on the all-time Grand Slam singles wins list, at 19, 16 and 14, respectively. Connors and Lendl both own eight major titles. And McEnroe has won three Wimbledon championships to accompany his four Open crowns.
Moreover, all six have risen to No. 1 in the world and, collectively, they have been the top men’s seed for 26 of the 50 US Opens contested in the Open era.
In many ways, Nadal is the least likely of the sextet. He struggled to break through at the US Open early in his career, needing four trips to New York to make it past the third round. The Open was also the last Grand Slam at which he reached the semifinals and the last at which he advanced to the final, and it was the final of the four majors he conquered.
That 2010 title, however, changed his career trajectory in Flushing Meadows, rewriting the narrative that the King of Clay could not also rule on concrete. And Nadal has done nothing but burnish his hard-court credentials since. In addition to his three US Open titles, he reached the 2011 final – all to go along with a pair of semifinal showings and a quarterfinal appearance.
And if his 2017 campaign is any indication, Nadal’s championship days are not at all behind him, making a fourth title – which would come eight years after his first – very much a possibility in 2018.