Sports | September 11, 2017 5:00 am

Rafael Nadal Cements No. 1 Ranking With US Open Title

Spanish tennis player wins 16th major title with straight sets victory over Kevin Anderson.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal, of Spain, reacts after beating Kevin Anderson, of South Africa, to win the men's singles final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Defeating the heavily out-classed Kevin Anderson in three sets may not be a US Open title for the history books for Rafael Nadal. But it sure cemented his status as a player for the ages.

The Spaniard kept his No. 1 ranking by beating a hard-battling Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 Sunday night to earn his 16th major title and third US Open. The former mark puts him just three behind Roger Federer’s record.

The injury-related breaks he was forced to take earlier in his career seem a thing of the past. And at 31, he’s combined the relentless style that defined him from the beginning with a tactical game that comes with experience.

“The cynics will say that he won this with some help from the draw gods, all seven of his opponents residing outside the top 20, including Kevin Anderson in Sunday afternoon’s final, wrote Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Wertheim.

“Unlike Nadal’s ball-striking, this analysis will be inaccurate. Winning his first non-clay title since early 2014, Nadal was at his Nadal-est, coming close to replicating the level he brought to bear during the clay season.

Healthy and teeming with confidence, Nadal showed off the full orbit of his game — the defense, the offense, the athleticism, the vastly underrated net play.”