Nadal, in tears, lifts his 19th Grand Slam
Rafa Nadal won his fourth US Open title and his 19th Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows on Sunday evening, at the age of 33. As was forecast, Medvedev was unable to overcome the Spanish champion, although he made life extremely difficult for Nadal after being taken to pieces tactically in the first two sets, to force the Spaniard to an agonising fifth to take the title: 5-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, 4-6.
As happened in Montreal, Nadal found the formula to open up cracks in the rough (and less than aesthetic) tennis of the Russian 23-year-old. The man from Mallorca is an expert in trapping his rivals in his web, all the while making his serve count. Rafa found the angles to open up the court and wear his opponent down physically - changing the height, the power and the depth of his shots and intelligently mixing up top and back-spin, key against a player standing nearly two metres tall.
A tactical offensive from Rafa that left Medvedev struggling from the back of the court in the first two sets, the area where he's normally most dangerous, with his usual counter-attacking game. He ended up forced to look for rather desperate solutions, looking to shorten the points with power, numerous drop-shots and moving up to the net... And his game began to come apart at the seams, as he struggled to find winners with the forehand and started missing volleys.
That said, Medvedev won respect (and maybe a little antipathy) from tennis fans for his on-court attitude and capacity to never give up, which has made him the new leader of the NextGen. His ability to react and turn things around in the third and fourth set was outstanding, making for a superb final and showing the depth of his potential. It should be stressed that he was playing in his first Grand Slam final, against Rafael Nadal. And he showed he's got more lives than a cat and a few extra gears too...
In the end though, despite the drama, there was no surprise. Nadal is a better, more complete, tennis player than his Russian opponent, both technically and mentally. And as usual, he managed to damage his opponent at the vital moments, and this against a player who has had an incredible summer and is in fine form, as he showed against Wawrinka and Dimitrov.
Nadal relied on his own good form, on his heroism, his experience and his ability to cope with everything his opponent threw at him to take advantage of the golden opportunity handed to him when his side of the draw opened up, with early defeats to some of the big names, Djokovic pulling out injured and Federer's slip-up against his Bulgarian clone. The left-hander had his 19th slam in his sights and didn't miss, important too in the battle between the Big Three. And he wasn't even playing his absolute best tennis. He's now only one major behind Federer and increases his advantage over Djokovic to three. Among the nineteen are five on the hard courts. Lucky for some the Spaniard only knows how to play on clay...
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