US Open victory means a lot, says Nadal

New York: Calling it one of the most emotional nights of his 18-year career, Rafael Nadal celebrated a dramatic US Open final victory Sunday over Daniil Medvedev for his 19th Grand Slam title.

The 33-year-old Spanish left-hander grabbed his fourth career title on the New York hardcourts in thrilling fashion, squandering a two-set lead before outlasting the Russian fifth seed 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 after four hours and 50 minutes.

“I more or less had the match under control,” Nadal said. “The way he was able to fight to change the rhythm of the match was incredible.” Nadal’s head was in his hands as he became emotional in the moments after his epic triumph, feelings compounded when a tribute video of his Grand Slam titles was shown in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Has been one of the most emotional nights in my tennis career, with that video, with all of you,” Nadal told a cheering crowd that chanted his name several times in the intense final set. “There’s no stadium in the world that’s more energetic than this one.”

Outside of the French Open, where Nadal took his 12th title in June, the US Open is the Slam title he has captured the most in his career. “That’s so important,’ Nadal said of his fourth US Open crown. ‘This victory means a lot. And the way it happened. It was hard to control the nerves. The nerves were so high after having the match almost under control.”

Nadal has dropped only one Grand Slam match out of more than 200 when he has won the first two sets, that loss coming to Fabio Fognini in the third round of the 2015 US Open. But he nearly became the first man since 1949 to lose the US final after winning the first two sets.

Daniil Medvedev said he was incredibly proud of a remarkable six-week hardcourt run in North America that culminated with Sunday’s agonizing five-set loss to Rafael Nadal. Medvedev became just the third man to reach finals at Washington, Canada, Cincinnati and the US Open in the same summer, but like those before him — Ivan Lendl (1982) and Andre Agassi (1995) — he too finished runner-up in New York. “It was an amazing match. It’s an amazing story. All this summer is amazing for me. I will remember every moment of it,” Medvedev said.

“I have a really good memory if we talk about tennis. I’ll definitely remember it even when I’m, like, 70 years old.” Medvedev, who won his first Masters title last month in Cincinnati, will climb to a career high of fourth in the ATP rankings on Monday. “After the summer I had no fear. I had everything to win. I think it’s Rafa who had something to lose. I went out there, I gave everything I could, and I’m proud of myself,” Medvedev said.

“He was the better one today. I have to admit it. I have no regrets.’ The Russian, a first-time Grand Slam finalist, joked he was thinking of what to say during the trophy presentation after losing the first two sets to Nadal. But Medvedev spurred on by an electric Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd, tapped into his energy reserves to launch a stirring fightback that had Nadal up against the ropes. After levelling the final at two sets apiece, Medvedev missed three break point chances in the second game of the decider. He looked beaten after going a double break down, but retrieved one and erased two match points, creating an opportunity to get back on serving as Nadal served for the title a second time.”Was I close to winning? Yes, one set away. I mean, had breakpoints at 5-4. I will remember everything about it. I will be disappointed with the result, but I will be happy with the way I played, as I say, the whole summer, the whole US Open,” Medvedev said.

“Before the tournament, my best result was a fourth round of a Slam. I had some physical problems. Sometimes I didn’t play as good as I wanted. But I managed to be in the final. I managed to give a huge fight to one of the best players in the history of our sport.” Nadal’s victory extended the dominance of the “Big Three” with the last 12 major titles won by the Spaniard, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer.