In this last grand slam of 2019, a 19-year-old won the women’s title at the US Open, and Rafael Nadal landed his 19th major Sunday in dramatic fashion to creep up on Roger Federer on the grand slam ladder.
A day after Bianca Andreescu defeated Serena Williams to win her first – and Canada’s first – singles grand slam, Nadal survived against debut grand slam finalist Daniil Medvedev of Russia 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 in a bruising, four-hour, 50-minute thriller in New York.
The two matchups just happened to be the finals of the Rogers Cup a few weeks ago, with Andreescu and Nadal winning those, too.
“It’s been one of the most emotional nights of my tennis career,” said Nadal, who wept in his chair when a recap of his 19 majors was shown on the big screen at Arthur Ashe Stadium. He later took the time to send his condolences to former tour player Karim Alami, whose son died recently.
Medvedev certainly fared better than when he met Nadal in Montreal, claiming a mere three games.
Despite the tough loss, he showed a sense of humor during his speech.
“If I win, what will they show?” he said, referencing Nadal’s video tribute.
He won over the fans Sunday, during a fortnight where he was previously cast as a villain.
The final wasn’t without controversy but it had nothing to do with Medvedev, as Nadal was docked first serves twice by chair umpire Ali Nili in the fifth set for taking too long to serve.
The mostly pro-Nadal crowd of 24,000 seemed to disapprove and Nili was booed during the trophy presentation. Nadal making Medvedev wait throughout while the 23-year-old served is sure to be debated, too.
In truth, though, it came nowhere close to the controversy in last year’s women’s final when Williams clashed with chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
Nadal was creaking entering the fifth set, but in one of the two key games of the fifth, saved three break chances at 0-1. One came after he was docked a first serve.
Medvedev was then broken from 40-0 at 2-2 in the other massive game.
He refused to buckle, however, getting from 2-5 to 4-5 after saving a pair of match points. Medvedev even held a break chance in the last game, though Nadal ended by claiming the last three points.
It meant Nadal has still only lost one grand slam match when leading by two sets – at the US Open in 2015 versus Fabio Fognini.
While Medvedev and Andreescu’s careers are in their infancy, the 33-year-old Nadal has been going for years.
But given all the injuries he has suffered, questions were raised about whether the Spaniard would be able to compete for this long.
He’s answered those.
Another more recent question has been: Will Nadal catch Federer in the grand slam stakes?
That is looking increasingly likely, as he trails the Swiss now by only one.
At 38, who knows how many more grand slam titles Federer will amass. Nadal, meanwhile, even if he doesn’t win the Australian Open in January, looks certain to bag at least one more French Open title. He is after all the undisputed king of Roland Garros, with a mind boggling 12 crowns.
Nadal repeated that he isn’t obsessed with finishing with the most majors but added: “If that attracts fans and creates interest on the people, that’s good for our sport, no?
“I feel honored to be part of this battle.”
On the hard courts of New York, Nili drew the ire of Nadal when he gave him a time violation warning while serving in the very first game.
A slightly rattled Nadal dropped serve in his next service game and conversed with Nili at the change of ends, showing his displeasure.
Nadal immediately broke back against the fifth seed and held serve comfortably while pressuring the Medvedev serve.
He got his reward at 6-5, converting on his second set point with a wonderful lob that forced an error. Nadal was 15-1 in grand slam finals when he won the first set, and that trend held, barely.
The lanky, 6-foot-6 Medvedev is a gifted counterpuncher with a massive serve, when it’s on. And he can change his style and attack when required. There is a plan B and even C.