Rafael Nadal could not hold back the tears as he was pushed to the brink by Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in a remarkable US Open final in New York.
After winning the first two sets against a rival who was appearing in his first Grand Slam final, Nadal was rocked onto the back foot as Medvedev snatched the third set and stormed to victory in the fourth set as he dared to believe one of the greatest comebacks in tennis history was within his grasp.
Medvedev had the upper hand in the early exchanges of the fifth set, but a break for Nadal in the fifth game swung the tide in the Spaniard’s favour, who still had time to lose his serve one last time before he closed out a 7-5 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-4 victory.
The tears flowed for Nadal as he looked up at the big screen at a video celebrating his 19th Grand Slam title, which moved him to within one of his great rival Roger Federer in the all-time list.
“This has been an amazing final,” declared Nadal, who received $3.85m for winning his fourth US Open title.
“First word that I have is to Daniil. His summer is one of the best summers I’ve ever seen since I’ve been playing.
“Tonight, everybody saw why he is the number four player in the world at just 23 years old. Many congratulations for everything. The way that he was able to fight, to change the rhythm of the match was just incredible. All the very best for the future, I am sure you will have many more chances to win here.
“It has been one of the most emotional nights of my tennis career. Thank you very, very much, everybody in this stadium. It’s been amazing energy during both weeks. I think there isn’t another stadium in the world that is more energetic than this one so many thanks for everything.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 9, 2019
“This victory means a lot, especially the way the match became so difficult, so tough.
“The nerves were so high after having the match under control. It was a crazy match. I don’t know. I’m just emotional.”
Medvedev was jeered by the New York fans earlier in the tournament, but he received a rapturous ovation as he spoke to the fans after receiving his runners-up silver plate.
“First of all I just want to congratulate Rafa, 19th Grand Slam title is something unbelievable, outrageous,” said the new world number four.
“I want to congratulate him and his team, you guys are doing an amazing job. It’s very tough to play against you.
“When I was looking on the screen and they were showing number one, number two, number 19, I was thinking if I won, what would they show?!
“What you’ve done for tennis in general, it’s amazing for our sport. Thank you and congrats again.
“To be honest in my mind, I was already thinking what do I say in the speech, it’s going to be in 20 minutes.
“I was like I have to fight for every ball, and it went further but it didn’t go my way. I know earlier in the tournament I said a bad thing, and now it’s a good thing.
“It’s because of your energy that I’m here in the final. I mean, tonight is going to always be in my mind because I played in the biggest court in the tennis world.
“You guys were pushing me to prolong this match because you want to see more tennis. Because of you guys, I was fighting like hell.
“It’s electric. You were booing me for a reason. I can also change because I am a human being and I can make mistakes. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.”
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