The Spaniard went to great depths to control Kevin Anderson's serve. (AP)

Although Rafael Nadal’s straight-sets US Open final win over Kevin Anderson was hardly a surprising result, the Spaniard showed another example of how he has reinvented the game. Long known for his intense topspin and mental strength, Nadal stretched the limits of the court by returning serve from the outskirts of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It’s like the 31-year-old is playing in another dimension.

The 16-time major winner has incorporated this strategy against big servers before, using it to thwart Roger Federer's net attacks in the 2014 Australian Open semifinals. The risk is that Nadal gives up serving angles and leaves his own court more open. The rewards are his excellent margins and increased time to return serves by hitting deeper and carving unusual angles.

Early in the match, Nadal spun back in a crazy return that whirled around and over a hesitant 6'8" Anderson.

Coming into the match, Anderson talked about how important it would be to control the court. Instead, he was forced into uncomfortable approach shots at critical times and won only 16 of 34 points at net.

By the second set, Nadal transitioned from a defensive attack to aggressively punching more winners than Anderson (15 to 6) and using the court like an exercise in advanced geometry. The world No. 1 never wavered in his tactics, and Anderson was unable to respond. He failed to create a single breakpoint opportunity.

Credit Nadal’s talent, unconventional style and competitive heart. It's clear he's also one of the great thinkers in the game. He adapts, readjusts and finds ways to deliver new strokes for familiar results.