Friday, 20 September, 2019

Clay fiend Nadal finds unlikely second home at US Open

2019 U.S. Open men’s final: Rafael Nadal seeks 19th Grand Slam title Mertens, Sabalenka capture first Grand Slam title in US Open women's doubles
Cary Erickson | 11 September, 2019, 04:26

The Spaniard prevailed 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 in a bruising four hours, 50 minutes over his Russian opponent, who was playing in his first grand slam final at the age of 23.

On a knife's edge at 5-5 in the third set, Medvedev reeled off eight of the last nine points to force a fourth, breaking Nadal in the 12th game with a backhand victor.

Nadal rescued three Medvedev break chances to hold in the second game of the fifth set, fired a backhand volley victor to break Medvedev in the fifth game and seized a 5-2 edge when Medvedev hit an overhead smash long.

Medvedev's inspired returns of serve forced Nadal onto the back foot as the Spaniard produced some of his best defensive tennis to hold serve as the fired-up 33-year-old roared his approval after holding his first service game of the set. The young athlete has five ATP singles finals to his name.

Throughout the Open, Nadal had dropped just one set and came into the final on a 10-match win streak. He won the French Open this year as well.

"I knew I have to leave my heart out there for them, also".

The shot is one of the best-kept secrets in tennis, and in this final, the second-longest of Nadal's career, it might have saved him from a dispiriting loss.

Medvedev had never been past the fourth round at any Grand Slam tournament until this one. Nadal - who was 31 when he won the title in 2017 - joins Jimmy Connors, who won in 1982 and '83 aged 30 or more, on the list. A 19th Grand Slam title, the closest he has ever been to Roger Federer's all-time record of 20.

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Nadal has now won 19 slams to Federer's 20 after seeing off a battling Medvedev at Flushing Meadows. Because of you guys, I was fighting like hell.

There was no shortage of break points in this one, nor of great shots fending those off. Nadal had more (21), good for six breaks (29% conversion percentage).

But Medvedev couldn't quite become the first man in 70 years to win a U.S. Open final after trailing two sets to none. It was so tough for me to play.

When Nadal eked out a break point of his own at 2-2, Medvedev aced him, but when Nadal created another, a double-handed backhand putting him back in control. Down by two sets and a break, Medvedev shifted styles, upped his level against a rattled Nadal - and even received an unexpected boost from the Arthur Ashe Stadium spectators.

As unpredictable as Medvedev can be, Nadal is a man of routine from the exact placing of water bottles to a twitchy pre-serve ritual.

The killer instinct Nadal has honed over almost two decades at the top of the game then surfaced as he held serve and added yet another break to take control at 5-2.

Normally Nadal likes to thank his fans at the very end of his speech but this time, he thanked them first.