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Tennis | 10sBalls Shares A Look At The 2019 U.S. Open Men’s Final Preview

By Alix Ramsay

Rafael Nadal. He’s so humble. He’s so normal. He’s so polite. He’s so nice. And, yes, he is all of these things. But he is also a beast (Daniil Medvedev’s description, not ours). In a locker room chock full of testosterone, egos and competitive tension, he stands apart.

Rafa’s ability to focus on each and every point, to fight for each and every point, to play each and every point as if it were his last, is what has won him 18 grand slam titles and put him on the verge of winning his 19th. And if he does win on Sunday afternoon in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, he will move to within one major title of Roger Federer. With the French Open to come next May.

For a lifetime, Rafa has been respectful to the point of reverence towards the Mighty Fed. Fed is, as Rafa always calls him, “the greatest in the history”. But he knows that he is within touch distance of matching that record and he is not afraid to admit it. Humbly, respectfully and politely, of course. Five years younger than Federer, he sees his chance to end his career with more grand slam trophies than any other play in “the history”.

“You win, you lose,” he said after stopping Matteo Berrettini in his tracks on Friday night. “That’s part of all the sport. Of course, I would love to be the one who achieve more grand slams, but I still sleep very well without being the one who have more grand slams.

“As I always say to you, and is true: I would love to be the one to have more, yes, but you cannot be all day frustrated or all day thinking about what’s your neighbour have better than you.

“You have to be happy with yourself. You have to do your way. If you are the one to achieve more, fantastic. If not, at least I give my best during all my career. That’s all.”

But when Rafa gives his best, even on the hard courts that have caused him so many injury problems in the past, he is all but unstoppable (he beat Novak Djokovic to win two of his three US Open titles, after all). When he picks up the scent of a major title – and when he knows he is fully fit – he becomes a different foe. If he is fierce on his way to the final, he is terrifying when he gets there.

Now Medvedev has to face that fire, and do it in his first major final. He has met Rafa before – in the Montreal final – and been overwhelmed by the force, the power and the “energy” of the Spaniard. He won just three games in that encounter but Nadal knows it is not going to be that straight forward on Sunday.

“Is a super tough final,” Nadal said. “I need to be playing at my best. I think at the end of the semi-final I increased my level again. I need to hold this level if I want to have chances on Sunday. If not, is so difficult. He is very, very solid.

“His summer is just amazing. But all his season is amazing. He started playing very well in Australia. He played the final in Brisbane.

“In Melbourne, he lost a match with Novak. He lost against the champion. He had a very, very tough battle there, too. After that he was very solid during the whole year.

“On clay he played very well. I heard, I didn’t know, but I heard in the past he was not a great player on clay, but this year he was a great player on clay, playing great matches, winning a lot of matches.

“Then the summer is just almost perfect. Final in Washington, final in Montreal, winning Cincinnati, final here already. Is the player who is in better shape on tour. I will face the player who is winning more matches of the year, and the player who is playing on the highest level since a while.”

All Medvedev knows about the final is that Nadal will fight like a cornered tiger. All Nadal knows about the final is that Medvedev will never lie down, will never give in. For this one afternoon, then, history will have to wait. For the moment it does not matter who has how many titles; for the moment, all that matters is that Nadal has a chance. That is all he needs. That’s all he asked of himself.

“I always say the same: we still playing,” he said of his position in the record books. “Here we are. When I arrived here, my goal was to produce a chance to compete for the big thing again. Here I am.

“I give myself another chance, as I did in Wimbledon, as I did in Australia, as I did in Roland Garros. That’s the personal satisfaction. That’s the personal happiness.”

That and the comforting thought that he has been in 26 previous grand slam finals and having won 18 of them. He is ever so humble, is Rafa, but he is ever so tough to beat.

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