Rafael Nadal in the semi-final of the US Open 2019, New York
Rafael Nadal in the semi-final of the US Open 2019, New York | (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

Tennis | US Open 2019 | Three thoughts on Nadal’s Slam tally after being pushed the distance by Medvedev

By Ros Satar

  • Rafael Nadal [2] def. Daniil Medvedev [5] 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4
  • Nadal wins fourth US Open, a 19th Slam and now is just one Slam away from Roger Federer’s total of 20.
NEW YORK, USA – Daniil Medvedev made Rafael Nadal earn his fourth US Open, and 19th Slam title in a five-set battle to bring the last Slam of the year to an end.


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The Match

Coming in to the US Open, Rafael Nadal had one the Montreal final in convincing fashion, over Daniil Medvedev, but Medvedev was the man in form this hard court summer, making the finals in Washington and Toronto, and winning his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati.

Struggling with the amount of tennis in his legs, taped up here and there, it started as a game of cat and mouse, with Nadal losing his serve first but pegging the Russian back immediately. Nadal was the one looking the more threatening bringing up break points before finally breaking Medvedev for the first set.

The Russian had his chance to break at the start of the second set, and then found himself having to fend off four break points on his own serve, before he gave up his serve as Nadal looked far too imperious.

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There was no lack of fight from Medvedev – it would be easy to look at the Montreal result where Medvedev won just three games before being bagelled – and to be two sets and a break down, Medvedev admitted that he was wondering what he should say in his loser’s speech.

However, Nadal suddenly found himself in a battle, losing his own serve in the next game, and broken at the end of the set to keep Medvedev’s hopes alive. The fourth set saw chances come and go for both players as the quality and intensity of rallies remained as high as at the start of the match. But the plot would twist once more as Medvedev got the only break of the set to send it into a decider.

Medvedev was the one with the momentum, having three chances to break Nadal but could not quite get over the line, and there Nadal’s experience started to show. He snapped Medvedev’s momentum with two straight breaks, but nerves still exist even for the best champions as Nadal was broken serving for the title the first time.

Medvedev saved two championship points to force Nadal to serve it out, and almost wrecked his moment again, having a break point, but the final moment would be the Spaniard’s, saving the break point and converting his third match point for an emotional finish to one of the longest finals at the US Open.


The Impact

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Quite aside from a decent fourth US Open title, of course the real impact is this title puts Nadal within just one more Slam of equalling Roger Federer’s current tally of 20 Slams. For so long it seems as though it would maybe be Novak Djokovic (currently on 16 Slams) would be the one to catch up to Federer – why? Because Nadal’s constant battles with injuries often made his Slams most likely to be Roland Garros but the dominance of Djokovic and Federer across the other surfaces looked like he would be held at bay.

This year, the Slams were locked up by Djokovic (Australian Open, Wimbledon) and Nadal (Roland Garros, US Open) and Federer’s best chance of stretching out his lead disappeared at Wimbledon with two match points going begging at Wimbledon before the title was decided for the first time by the new tie-break system.

With Djokovic having an impressive record at Australia, as well as beginning to feel equally welcome in Wimbledon’s Centre Court, the pressure now is more on Federer to try and stay ahead of them.


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What about Medvedev?

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What of the slight Russian who at times has let his fiery temperament get the better of him in tournaments and especially here at the US Open. Well he managed to turn those boos in the earlier rounds to cheers. Having goaded the fans by telling them their energy made him win in the earlier rounds, he cupped his ear to them in the trophy ceremony, and told them their energy made him fight like hell.

Up until now the chasing pack, a mix of the older ‘Generation Lost Boys’ and a mish-mash of ATP Next Generations have shown promise winning Masters but fallen far short in the Slams. Only Dominic Thiem had emerged as the likely heir apparent to Nadal for the Roland Garros title, even taking a set off him in this year’s final.

Medvedev puts himself firmly in the mix, and his run here makes him and the Big Three the first four confirmed names for the Nitto ATP Finals at the end of the season.

The ATP Tour continues with the St Petersburg Open starting on 16 October.


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