NEW YORK (AP) — Novak Djokovic broke Rafael Nadal's serve twice in the second set Monday to even the U.S. Open final at one set apiece.
Djokovic won the second set 6-3, after dropping the first 6-2.
Second-seeded Nadal, seeking his 13th major title, had been broken only once in 82 games entering this final, though that figured to change against top-seeded Djokovic, who is considered the best returner in the game.
In the sixth game, Djokovic won a 55-shot rally on break point for a 4-2 lead. Nadal broke back immediately but Djokovic got yet another break. He closed that one out with a backhand approach-shot winner to end a 29-shot rally and take a 5-3 lead, then served out the set.
This marks the 37th meeting between the men — the most in the Open era. It's also their third U.S. Open final; Nadal won in 2010 and Djokovic in 2011. Both those matches went four sets and this one was guaranteed of going at least four.
Djokovic opened the Grand Slam season with the title in Australia, while Nadal won his eighth French Open title in June.
Only once in last 20 years has the first-set loser gone on to win the U.S. Open final — in 2009, when Juan Martin del Potro came from behind to beat Roger Federer.
Djokovic is coming off a five-set win over Stanislas Wawrinka in a semifinal that took 4 hours, 9 minutes. He was in a similar situation in the Wimbledon final — playing Andy Murray two days after a five-set win in the semis. That day, in 80-degree weather, Djokovic looked tired and tried to end points early in what turned out to be a three-set loss to Murray.
The temperature for the U.S. Open final was 71 with a slight breeze kicking up as shadows enveloped the court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. In the first set, Nadal dealt with the wind more effectively, committing only four unforced errors to 14 for Djokovic.
Djokovic also had more in the second set — 11-7 — but hit 15 winners to only seven for Nadal.
Nadal came in a perfect 21-0 on hard court this year, while Djokovic has more wins than anyone on the surface, with 31.