MADRID – Spain's golden year of sporting success just keeps getting better.
Rafael Nadal's victory at the U.S. Open is the latest coup for Spain in a season-long fiesta on the international stage.
Nadal followed up his victories at the French Open and Wimbledon this summer by beating Novak Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in the U.S. Open final for his ninth Grand Slam title. At age 24, the Mallorca native is being talked about as one of the greatest players of all time.
"He's already a legend," sports daily Marca said of Nadal, describing him as "the best in history" by this stage of his career.
Many newspapers were wondering if Nadal could be the greatest Spanish athlete of all time. Nadal also won Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008 and helped Spain to three of its four Davis Cup titles since 2004.
"History is at his feet," Marca said.
El Pais wrote: "The Spaniard leaves the city that never sleeps with the most pleasant dream possible: champion, myth and, now, a legend."
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero praised Nadal in a telegram.
"Your name and your triumphs are now part of sports legend, and this makes all of us Spaniards proud. As expected, again you won your way: with effort, zeal to excel, elegance and spectacular play. Thanks for making us all rejoice and dream, yet again," Zapatero wrote.
Spanish opposition leader Mariano Rajoy also paid tribute to Nadal.
"He really is something. We have to thank him because he makes us happy without asking for anything in exchange. No one gives as much as he does," Rajoy said.
Davis Cup teammate Fernando Verdasco, who lost to Nadal in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, complimented his compatriot.
"Congratulations from here to Rafa Nadal for winning the us.open, for the way he played and unbelievable (fourth) set with only 2 errors!" Verdasco wrote on his Twitter page. "So BIG!"
Nadal's victory also raised the nation's spirits after the only real disappointment this year: Spain's national team failed to defend its world basketball championship title in Turkey, losing to Serbia in the quarterfinals.
But there could be more celebrations to come.
Spanish racing driver Fernando Alonso won the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday and is in contention for his third Formula One title.
That would cap a truly remarkable year.