Rafael Nadal survived a heroic Daniil Medvedev fightback to claim an epic 7-5 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-4 win and a fourth U.S. Open title on September 8, moving within one Grand Slam crown of matching Roger Federer's all-time record of 20.
A routine end to the Flushing Meadows fortnight looked on the cards when Nadal went two sets and a break up but the final turned into a near five-hour thriller as Medvedev staged a comeback that left the Spaniard shaken and Arthur Ashe Stadium buzzing.
“An amazing final seemed that I had the match more or less, it has been one of the most emotional nights in my tennis career,” Nadal said after watching a montage of his 19 major title triumphs on the stadium's big screen. “Tonight everybody saw why he is the number four player in the world already. The way that he was able to fight to change the rhythm of the match was just incredible. This victory means a lot especially because of the way the match became so difficult, so tough.”
The 33-year-old lefthander became the second oldest U.S. Open champion in the professional era behind Australian Ken Rosewall, who was 35 when he lifted the title in 1970. Not once since 1949 had a player come back from two sets down to win the U.S. Open final but the tall Russian, cheered loudly by a crowd that booed him mercilessly earlier in the week, came close.
On the ropes with Medvedev looking to deliver the knockout blow, however, Nadal showed once again why he is the game's greatest fighter and he lifted himself off the canvas to scrap his way to a 19th Grand Slam title. Nadal needed three championship points to finally kill off his 23-year-old opponent and let out a mighty roar as Medvedev's final return sailed long before falling on his back to soak up the cheers.
Already the King of Clay the Spaniard has been a master of the Flushing Meadows hardcourts this New York fortnight, dropping just one set on way to the final. Nadal's victory also saw him join an elite club with Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Federer as winners of four or more U.S. Open men's singles titles in the open era.
While the women have served up four different Grand Slam winners this season, the old guard of Nadal, Federer and Novak Djokovic continue to rule the men's game with the “Big Three” having combined to win the last 12 majors.
Medvedev arrived at his first Grand Slam final as the hottest player in men's tennis, riding the momentum from reaching four consecutive finals, but it was not enough to carry him to a maiden major title.