NEW YORK - World number one Rafael Nadal fell one match short of his goal of reaching the US Open final, but the 22-year-old Spanish left-hander looks back at a landmark season with delight despite an upset loss.
British sixth seed Andy Murray downed the Wimbledon, French Open and Olympic champion 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 Sunday in Nadal's first US Open semi-final, a match that began Saturday but was halted by rain in the third set.
"I'm disappointed but at the same time I'm happy," Nadal said. "I did a good semi-final and when I arrived I had too many matches on my shoulders. I leave the US Open with positive memories."
Nadal won his fourth French Open title in a row in June, defeated Roger Federer in an epic five-set Wimbledon final thriller for the ages in July and took the Olympic title and world number one ranking over Federer in August.
"It was almost a perfect season," Nadal said. "I did incredible things for me. I didn't expect a season like this when I started."
Asked to define what made this such a breakthrough season, Nadal could only wonder.
"I don't know. I try my best always. The goal is always the same - improve," Nadal said.
Nadal said his season took off when he reached the clay-court campaign.
"I started playing the best tennis of my career," Nadal said. "The only physical problem was a blister in Rome. Hamburg, Roland Garros, perfect tournament."
The defining moment came when he outlasted Federer at Wimbledon after settling for runner-up honors on the All-England grass the prior two years.
"You know how important it was for me to win Wimbledon after two years playing the finals," Nadal said. "For sure after Wimbledon I had the big goal - number one and Olympics and finals US Open."
Murray denied him the treble but Nadal was satisfied having given his all.
"I go on court all day with calm, try to fight as much as I can, going home knowing I tried everything," Nadal said. "I had my chance in the fourth set. I just didn't come back."
Asked if he might trim his schedule next year to avoid the match fatigue that typically arrives at Flushing Meadows, Nadal pointed out that playing so many events is what enabled him to become the world number one.
"If you want to be in the top position, do you think you have any chance if you play less? No," he said.
Next on Nadal's agenda is a Davis Cup semi-final in Spain later this month and the season-ending Masters Series event at Shanghai.
"Hopefully I can recover for this important series and later for the Masters Series final in Shanghai," Nadal said.