Rafael Nadal won his fourth US Open title by beating 5th seed Daniil Medvedev in 5 set thriller at US Open in New York on Sunday.It was his 19th Grand Slam title and 84th of his illustrious career.
When draw for men’s singles was announced for the final major of the year, Rafa was relieved to avoid both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in his half as both former champions were pitted in top half of the draw.More good news came just two days after the US Open got underway,that 4 out of top 10 players in his quarter bowed out in the first round.With the likes of Dominic Thiem,Stefanos Tsistipas departed early,Nadal’s path to the final looked smooth.World no.1 Novak Djokovic suffering from shoulder injury defaulted in the third set of fourth round against former champion Stan Wawrinka.Nadal who got a walkover in second round,was tested for the first time in his last 16 encounter with 2014 winner Marin Cilic.For the first time in the tournament Nadal lost a set.However he recovered fast to edge past Cilic.In the quarterfinals,five time winner Roger Federer suffered shock defeat at the hands of unseeded Grigor Dinitrov.That left Nadal as overwhelming favourite for the title.Spaniard despite leading for much part in both the opening sets against Diego Shwartzmann in quarters,lost serve twice in each sets before prevailing comfortably in third.Against surprise semifinalist,Matteo Berrettini Nadal was down 0-4 in first set tiebreaker only to pull it off in over an hour.That was the turning point as Nadal swept past next two sets to reach his fifth US Open final.In the final, Nadal was two sets and a break up.However gritty Russian 5th seed Medvedev had other plans.He surprised Nadal with his attacking display with winners coming from all over the court.Nadal found his rhythm back in the fifth set when he broke Medvedev twice.Russian pulled one back.Afterwards Nadal held firm and won his next service game after missing two championship points as Medvedev hit forehand long.
Nadal was well prepared before the final major in 2019 as he won Masters 1000 title in Montreal last month.It was the first time ever Nadal defended a title on hard court in his career.He made the right decision by pulling out of Cincinnati event subsequent week as his body needed rest and didn’t want to risk knee injury which hampered him in early part of the year which resulted him in pulling out of his semifinal against Federer in Indian Wells in March.He missed over a month before regaining his form on clay by winning French Open.
Dominance of Big Three
Big Three of Federer,Nadal and Djokovic still rule over the game.Since Nadal won his first Grand Slan in 2005,’Big Three’ have accumulated 50 out of last 58 majors.They have also won last 12 majors.
Debate over GOAT
With Rafa now standing just one short of Roger Federer with most majors(20) its interesting to see as to whom fans consider as greatest tennis player of all time.Nadal owns a significant lead in head to head encounters between the two.With Federer also struggling to win a major since 2017, Nadal at 33 still looks fitter than ever as he is still dominated the young guns on all surfaces. He has lost only one major final apart from ‘Big Three’ in 2014 against Stan Wawrinka while winning other 10 finals with ease against inferior opponents.He has won 4 ATP titles already in 2019 while reaching the finals of Australian Open.He has piled 47-6 record this year which is second best to only red hot Medvedev.He is also only player to reach semis of all four majors this year.Nadal joins Roger Federer to reach a Grand Slam final at least five times in three different tournaments.Rafa also won fifth Grand Slam title after turning 30.With Federer coming of age, Nadal if remained healthy will tie with Federer next season or may surpass him.After missing one and half year with injuries in 2015-16,Nadal has fought well to win major titles again.His fighting spirit combined with fitness and stamina has earned him many fans across the world.
Hats off to a legend.
by Shailesh Padhye for Sportsnasha.com