Nadal Takes 2-1 Lead in Sets Against Djokovic in U.S. Open Final

Second-seeded Rafael Nadal has taken a two-sets-to-one lead against top-seeded Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open men’s final in a duel of former champions.

Nadal, 27, of Spain, won the third set 6-4 after losing his serve twice in a row while dropping the second set 6-3. He won the first set 6-2 at the National Tennis Center in New York.

Nadal, who is 21-0 on hard courts this season, had lost only one game on serve in his first six matches of the tournament. He has lost it three times so far today.

Djokovic broke Nadal’s serve for the first time in the sixth game of the second set, winning the game on a 54-shot rally and pumping his arms above his head in triumph as he took a 4-2 lead.

That celebration was short-lived, as Nadal broke right back in the next game. Djokovic responded with another break of serve, though, and then served out the set.

Djokovic opened the third set with another service break, giving him three in a row. Nadal broke back to tie the score 3-3. In the ninth game of the third set, Nadal had to save three break points. After winning that game, Nadal immediately broke Djokovic’s serve to take the set.

It is the third time in four years that the two have met in the final -- Nadal won in 2010 and Djokovic triumphed in 2011. Last year, with Nadal sidelined by a knee injury, Djokovic lost to Andy Murray in the final.

Nadal and Djokovic are playing for the 37th time, the most of any men’s rivalry in the professional era of tennis that began in 1968. They had been tied with Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe with 36 meetings. Nadal leads the head-to-head contest 21-15.

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