(CNN) — Rafael Nadal is back.
After battling a knee injury which threatened to derail his glittering career, the Spaniard is back on track and back on top following a 6-2 3-6 6-4 6-1 win over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open final.
The second seed recovered from losing the second set and emerged victorious from an energy-sapping third to win his 13th grand slam and his 22nd consecutive hard-court match.
The Mallorcan, who added the Flushing Meadows title to the French Open crown he clinched earlier this year, now trails only Pete Sampras (14) and his great rival Roger Federer (17) in the list of all-time major winners.
He also now holds a significant lead over Djokovic in the race to end 2013 at the top of the world rankings.
Not bad for a player whose ability to compete at the highest level was called into question in June after a straight-sets defeat to 135th-ranked Steve Darcis in the first round of Wimbledon.
“I never thought something like this could happen, I’m so excited to be back on tour trying to be competitive,” Nadal told the U.S. Open’s official website after avenging his final defeat to Djokovic in the 2011 final.
“But I never thought about competing for what I have competed for this year, all the Masters 1000s, two grand slams … so it is just more than a dream for me.
“I’m very happy for everything. It’s true that I worked, but you need luck to be where I am today.”
Six-time grand slam champion Djokovic has now tasted defeat in consecutive U.S. Open finals, his latest disappointment coming after his loss to Andy Murray in the 2012 title match.
In fact, the Serb has been in four consecutive finals of the New York grand slam, his only victory coming against Nadal two years ago.
“All the credit to him,” said Djokovic after the 37th meeting between the two players. “I had my momentum from midway through the second set to end of the third where I was supposed to use it and realize the opportunities that were presented to me.
“I didn’t do it. I didn’t deserve to win in the end.
“It’s obviously disappointing to lose a match like this, but again it was a huge privilege and honor to be fighting for this trophy.”
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