Rafael Nadal claimed his fourth US Open title after defeating Daniil Medvedev in a five-set epic to move to within one Grand Slam of Roger Federer’s all-time record.
The Spanish second seed led by two sets and a break before Medvedev, playing in his first major final, launched an astonishing comeback. Nadal eventually ran out 7-5 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-4 winner against the fifth seed after four hours and 50 minutes of breathtaking tennis.
Medvedev is one of the hottest players in men’s tennis having reached a fourth straight final of a hard-court tournament, and somehow battled back from two sets and a break down before Nadal finally extinguished the Russian’s game in the fifth to secure a 19th Grand Slam.
An exhausted Nadal was in tears as he sat in his chair waiting for the post-match presentations.
He admitted: “It’s been one of the most emotional nights in my tennis career. It was an amazing final, since I had the match under control more or less. Tonight everybody saw why he is number four in the world.
“The way he was able to fight, to change the rhythm of the match, was incredible.”
The 33-year-old Spaniard now knows the door is open for him to overhaul Federer and become the all-time major record holder.
List of most Grand Slam men’s singles titles
Roger Federer 20
Rafael Nadal 19
Novak Djokovic 16
Pete Sampras 14
Roy Emerson 12
Rod Laver 11
Bjorn Borg 11
Bill Tilden 10
Medvedev knew the size of the task he faced in his first major final, but he created just the 17th break point Nadal had faced in the entire tournament during the opening game, sending a message to the world No 2.
The 23-year-old underdog was unable to take his opportunity on that occasion but he did so on Nadal’s next service game for an early 2-1 advantage. He was, however, unable to solidify his chance with an aggressive Nadal biting back immediately.
Medvedev came through a fluctuating eighth game, saving three break points along the way, but there was no escaping Nadal’s clutches in the 12th game with the lethal forehand of the Spaniard giving him the set after 62 minutes.
Medvedev’s task of an upset was growing impossible knowing that Nadal was 15-1 in Grand Slam finals from this position.
Nadal, who beat the Russian for the loss of three games at the Rogers Cup in August, steadily broke Medvedev’s resistance in the second set for a 4-2 lead before closing it out on serve to inch towards more glory in New York.
When Nadal broke through in the fifth game the writing seemed to be on the wall for Medvedev. However, he somehow found a second wind to strike back and restore parity. The Russian showed plenty of mettle to pull an unlikely set back by breaking in the 12th game. He struck 18 winners, winning 14 of the last 15 points in a huge momentum shift.
The final was turning into a huge physical battle with both men pushing each other to the limit on a rocking Arthur Ashe. It was Medvedev who looked the fresher player late in the fourth with the relentless Russian nailing a screaming backhand winner on set point to send the contest into a deciding set shoot-out – the first time that had happened since Britain’s Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic in 2012.
Medvedev received treatment on his left thigh ahead of the fifth but that didn’t appear to impede his immaculate court-coverage. Nadal was forced into saving three break-point chances on his opening service game and he then dug deep to grab a 3-2 advantage following another epic rally.
A double-break followed but the drama continued as umpire Ali Nili handed the Spaniard a time violation in the eighth game, after which he served a double-fault.
Medvedev stayed ice-cool to save two championship points on serve in the next, but Nadal eventually stumbled over the winning line when a long return by the Russian brought to an end a truly remarkable final.
During the trophy presentation, Medvedev addressed his new admirers. He had goaded them after his controversial win over Feliciano Lopez, saying “I want all of you to know, when you sleep tonight, that I won because of you.”
This time he said: “I want to talk about you guys. Earlier I said it in a bad way, now I mean it in a good way. It’s because of your energy I’m here in the final.”
He added: “Congratulations to Rafa, 19 Grand Slams is unbelievable, outrageous. I was looking at the screen when they were showing number one, number two, number 19, and I was like, ‘if I won, what would they show?’
“In the third set, to be honest, I was already thinking about what do I say in the speech, it’s going to be in 20 minutes. So I had to fight for every ball and see how far it goes.”
Culled from Sky Sports