Novak Djokovic confirmed his status as the world’s best player with a stunning victory over defending champion Rafael Nadal to lift his first US Open title.
The top seed from Serbia gave a display of breathtaking quality to triumph 6-2 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-1 in four hours and 10 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Nadal, who was bidding to win his 11th Grand Slam title, has now lost all six of his meetings with Djokovic in 2011.
Djokovic holds the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles.
And he becomes only the sixth man in the Open Era to win three of the four majors in the same year.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said the 24-year-old, who has lost only two of his 66 matches in 2011. “I’ve had an amazing year and it keeps going. Every time I play Rafa it’s a big challenge.
“He’s had a great tournament and I wish we have many more tough matches in the coming years.”
Djokovic was beaten by Nadal at the same stage 12 months ago, but he turned the tables on the Spaniard this time around – and how.
The crowd were treated to several pulsating baseline rallies in the opening stages, Nadal breaking serve for 2-0 only to surrender his advantage immediately.
Djokovic showed brilliant skill in windy conditions to save three break points for 2-2 and constructed a couple of stunning combinations to strike in game five.
The top seed was dictating the tempo and he broke again when Nadal netted a backhand under pressure before serving out the 53-minute opener to love.
Nadal enjoyed a relatively comfortable service game to start the second set and then managed to break his opponent with a trademark forehand down the line.
But the errors returned in a truly incredible game three, which saw Djokovic squander five break points before converting a sixth when Nadal netted a routine smash.
It was a game that whipped the crowd into a frenzy but seemed to sap the life out of Nadal and after watching Djokovic hold to love, he fell 3-2 behind with a double-fault.
The 10-time Grand Slam champion dug deep to break back for 4-4 with a backhand pass, yet Djokovic quickly regained the momentum and served out for a two-set lead.
Both men produced some astonishing tennis at the beginning of the the third and, after swapping breaks, a perfectly-timed drop shot helped Djokovic move 3-2 ahead.
Nadal shook his head in disbelief but managed to level with a forehand down the line, secured the first service hold in five games and then engineered a break point at 4-3.
Djokovic averted the danger with a backhand winner to end a jaw-dropping 31-shot rally and another to break for 6-5, meaning he would serve for the match.
However, this time Nadal came out on top in a dramatic exchange that left Djokovic on his knees and helped the Spaniard force a tie-break.
The noise reached a deafening crescendo and Nadal responded with an all-out attack, crafting his way to 5-1 and taking the first of three set points when Djokovic lashed a tired forehand into the net.
Djokovic looked in real trouble when he required a treatment for a back problem at the changeover, but he came out firing and snapped up three straight games to put himself firmly on course for victory.
A comfortable service hold made it 4-1 and Djokovic thumped his chest with delight on breaking a weary Nadal to love in game six.
He unleashed a glorious inside-out forehand – his 51st winner of the match – to seal an unforgettable win and his fourth Grand Slam title.
“I’m disappointed but Novak is doing unbelievable things,” said second seed Nadal. “What he did this year is probably impossible to repeat.
“I tried my best in every point. I tried to play aggressive but he made fantastic comebacks. I fought until last ball. I won a lot in the past but I have to work hard and come back stronger next year.”
-With bbc.co.uk input