Rafael Nadal was a man on a mission in New York. On Sunday, it all culminated with a fourth US Open crown as the Spaniard battled to the title in front of an electric Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Nadal outlasted Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 in four hours and 49 minutes, surviving a stunning comeback by the Russian. He made his opponent work for every point and overcame an aggressive Medvedev in one of the more gripping five-set finals in Grand Slam history. The tension boiled over as the 23-year-old rallied from two sets and a break down to force a decider. But, showing his trademark fight and unrelenting resolve, Nadal fought off his challenger to cross the finish line in thrilling fashion.
With his 19th Grand Slam victory, Nadal closes the gap to just one on Roger Federer in the all-time title chase. He also moves to three ahead of Novak Djokovic for solo second place on the list.
“This victory is so important for me,” said Nadal as he wiped away tears during the trophy presentation. “Especially as the match became more and more difficult. I was able to hold the nerves. They were so high. It was a crazy match and I’m just very emotional.
“It was an amazing final. Daniil is only 23-years-old and the way he was able to fight and change the rhythm of the match was amazing. He will have many more opportunities like this.”
Grand Slam Title Leaders
(1) Roger Federer
(2) Rafael Nadal
(3) Novak Djokovic
(4) Pete Sampras
Nadal continues his impressive run of form, extending his overall win streak to 10 straight and improving to 26-1 in his past five tournaments. That ruthless run also includes clay-court titles in Rome and at Roland Garros, a semi-final finish at Wimbledon and a triumph at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal. There, he defeated Medvedev in their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.
“Because of the crowd, I was fighting like hell,” said Medvedev. “In the third set, in my mind, I was already thinking what to say in the speech. I was fighting and I didn’t give up, but unforuntely it didn’t go my way.”
Nadal, who also reached the final at the Australian Open to open the season, extended his lead in the ATP Race To London to 1,960 points over Djokovic. In doing so, he strengthened his bid for a fifth year-end No. 1 finish in the ATP Rankings, which would tie Federer and Djokovic and move to within one of Pete Sampras’ record.
The fortnight belonged to the Spaniard, who claimed his third five-set major final. He previously defeated Roger Federer in a deciding set for the 2008 Wimbledon and 2009 Australian Open crowns.
US Open Title Leaders
1974, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1983
2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002
2010, 2013, 2017, 2019
1979, 1980, 1981, 1984
The 33-year-old, who claimed an unprecedented fifth Grand Slam title at the age of 30 & over, not only continues to etch his name in the major record books, but grabbed a slice of US Open history as well. His fourth crown at Flushing Meadows (2010, 2013, 2017) gives him the second-most tournament titles in the Open Era, moving him into a tie with John McEnroe. Only Federer, Jimmy Connors and Sampras have reigned on five occasions in New York.
Last month, Nadal routed Medvedev 6-3, 6-0 in the Montreal final and he would recover from an early break deficit to open proceedings on Sunday. Taking pace off his groundstrokes and charging the net often (11 of 14 points won), he broke right back and eventually grabbed the opening set after exactly one hour.
With legend Rod Laver, actor Michael Douglas and fashion icons Anna Wintour and Ralph Lauren in attendance, Nadal would streak to a two-set lead. It was much of the same as the third set got underway, with Nadal breaking for 3-2 behind a barrage of penetrating forehands.
But as quickly as the Spaniard seized what appeared to be the decisive lead, Medvedev answered in kind. The change in momentum was swift, as the Russian broke right back and fought off two more break points in the 10th game. A sudden injection of pace and aggression in his forehand saw him force a fourth set out of nowhere. His 18th winner of the set extended proceedings.
Match Wins Leaders In 2019
(1) Daniil Medvedev
(2) Rafael Nadal
(3) Roger Federer
(4) Novak Djokovic
Medvedev continued to mount the stunning comeback as the championship clash entered a fourth set. Increasing his aggression by stepping into the court and blasting away on both wings, as well as effectively serve-and-volleying, the fifth seed eventually forced a fifth set. The crowd erupted as he snuck a return winner past Nadal on set point.
But it was the Spaniard who would not be denied as the match entered a deciding set. Medvedev did well to break back when Nadal served for the championship at 5-2 and survived a pair of match points a game later. But it was the 33-year-old who would eventually cross the final line, capturing his third match point.
Medvedev was bidding to become the first Russian to claim a Grand Slam title since Marat Safin at the 2005 Australian Open and the youngest since a 20-year-old Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open. He owns a tour-leading 50 match wins this year, capping a stunning summer with a first major final appearance. Also the runner-up in Washington and in Montreal, he claimed his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown in Cincinnati last month.
Nadal will next take the court at the Rolex Shanghai Masters in October. While he leads Djokovic in the ATP Race To London, the Spaniard also held an advantage of more than 1,000 points a year ago and was eventually surpassed by the Serbian for year-end No. 1. Djokovic will next make his debut at the ATP 500 event in Tokyo ahead of his title defence in Shanghai.
Source: ATP World Tour