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Medvedev’s Epic Summer Ends With Epic U.S. Open Final Loss To Nadal

By Ricky Dimon

Daniil Medvedev left the U.S. Open and ended his unbelievable hard-court summer with a silver platter.

He didn’t hand Rafael Nadal the title on one.

Nadal lifted the U.S. Open trophy for a fourth time on Sunday evening and captured his 19th major title, but not before what looked like a lopsided affair turned into an instant classic. The 33-year-old led by two sets to love and a break, watched Medvedev erase the entire deficit, and then finally recovered to survive a five-setter thriller 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 in four hours and 49 minutes.

“The last three hours of the match [were] very, very intense,” Nadal assured. “Very tough mentally and physically, too.”

For a while it looked like the match would not even go too far past the two-hour mark. Nadal, who had mostly coasted through his entire draw just as he did en route to the 2017 U.S. Open title, took the first two sets and broke Medvedev for a 3-2 advantage in the third. Given that this summer and this tournament had already been incredibly draining for the Russian, it looked like he was finally left for dead.

Instead, Medvedev broke right back for 3-3 and unexpectedly stole the set with another break at 6-5. Suddenly Medvedev–who had been booed throughout the fortnight and again when walked into Arthur Ashe Stadium for the final–had the fans chanting his name.

It was an improbable turn of events for the 23-year-old, who gave the crowd the finger during his third-round victory over Feliciano Lopez and gave them the business in his on-court interviews following both his third-round and fourth-round wins. Boos were hot and heavy for Medvedev from the third round all the way through to his entrance on Sunday; now he was a fan favorite. It’s a fickle sport, this tennis.

The fans wanted a fourth set and they got it. They wanted a fifth set. They got that, too, after Medvedev earned the only break of the fourth at 5-4.

“I have to say I’m being myself,” explained the 23-year-old, who gave the crowd the finger during his third-round victory over Feliciano Lopez and gave them the business in his on-court interviews following both his third-round and fourth-round wins. “Talking about bad things, not proud of them, but I was being myself. Talking about good things and getting the crowd back…I should be surprised.

“Again, I was being myself. I was fighting for every point. I think they appreciated it. As I said, being break down in the third, I won the game, and I felt that these guys wanted some more tennis. They were cheering me up like crazy. I knew I have to leave my heart out there for them also. For myself first of all, but for them also. I think they saw it and they appreciate it. I’m thankful to them for this….

“It was a pleasure to be out there tonight. They were sometimes cheering my name, sometimes they were going for Rafa. I think it was just because the arena is so huge, there were so many people cheering both names, it was like changing all the time. The atmosphere was the best of my life, I have to say.”

Medvedev’s effort was certainly the best of his life, too–but it was not quite enough to get across the finish line against one of tennis’ all-time greats. Nadal finally came up with an answer to his opponent’s consistency and tenacity, seizing a crucial break in the fifth set from basically out of nowhere. Medvedev led 40-0 at 2-2 but missed an easy forehand that would have finished the game at love and went on to get broken.

Although the Spaniard extended his lead to 5-2, sealing the deal was appropriately far from simple. A never-say-die Medvedev got one of the breaks back for 3-5, held for 4-5 after saving two championship points, and even earned a break point to get back on serve at 5-5. Nadal, however, saved it by forcing the world No. 5 into an error with a strong forehand and two points later he capitalize on his third championship point with a big first serve that Medvedev sent well past the baseline.

“These kind of matches in the final of Grand Slam makes the match more special,” the world No. 2 said. “The way that the match became very dramatic at the end, that makes this day unforgettable, part of my history of this sport. (I’m) just very happy. This trophy means everything to me today. (My) personal satisfaction the way that I resisted all these tough moments is very high.

“At the same time Daniil created this moment, too. The way that he [fought], the way that he played, [was] a champion way. Just well done for him.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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