The new U.S Open tennis champion is truly playing in a league of his own. Rafael Nadal, or “El Torito” [the little bull], as I call him, has amped his game in a remarkable way over the last year, beginning with his serve, which has developed into a potent and unexpected weapon. Novak Djokovic hit shots again and again that would have been outright winners against any other player [as Roger Federer found out in the semifinals] yet Nadal never ceased to respond magnificently.

I love how Nadal’s incredibly powerful game contrasts with the shyness and almost self-consciousness he displays as a person. At 24, he’s already ahead of where Federer was on the road to number of Slams at the same point in his professional ascendance; the only worry is that Nadal’s punishing way of playing will take its eventual physical toll and potentially shorten his career. In the interim, one hopes he and Federer [pardon another nickname: “The Gazelle”] can continue this great rivalry of the contemporary tennis era.