'I almost beat Rafael Nadal,' Daniil Medvedev recalls

“I almost beat Rafael Nadal,” recalled Daniil Medvedev

Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal are the top seeds at the US Open. Two rivals are battling for the ATP throne and crown in the final major event of the season, although they still have to work hard to move into title contention.

Three years ago, Medvedev and Nadal played a memorable US Open final in which Rafa prevailed 7-5 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-4 after four hours and 49 minutes! Daniil bounced back after losing the first two sets before Rafa emerged in front with a nice hold in game ten of the decider.

Both players had more winners than unforced errors in an incredible mix of attacking tennis and overwhelming defense from the world’s best players. Nadal had a two-set advantage and a break in the third before Daniil started climbing back.

The Russian stole the third set and arranged a decider in what may be the most significant turn at the US Open in 70 years. Nonetheless, Nadal survived the opening service game of the fifth set and went over the top with a double break.

The opening set lasted over an hour and produced a grueling battle with three breaks. Nadal struggled for the first serve and paid the price in the third game when Daniil broke from the Spaniard’s loose forehand.

The Russian couldn’t stay in front for long and made a backhand error in the next game to bring Rafa back on the positive side. Daniil fended off three break points in game eight and survived another challenging service game to go 4-5 as he went two points from losing a set four times.

Rafa was in the zone for the rest of the set, delivering one good hold after another and finally stealing Medvedev’s serve in game 12 at 7-5 after 63 minutes.

Daniil Medvedev lost his first major final against Rafael Nadal in five sets in 2019.

Daniil was the more aggressive player in the second set as well.

He missed a break chance in the first game and was under pressure after not doing much in the next four return games. Rafa missed no fewer than four chances to make it 2-1, fighting hard and earning the desired break two games later when Daniil hit a forehand.

Nadal held a break in the fifth game of the third set when Medvedev netted a backhand and marched towards the finish line. The Spaniard has only been broken once so far, playing an easy hold to squander the advantage and bring the Russian back to 3-3.

Rafa had more chances to take a 4-4 lead as the youngster fended off a couple of break chances for massive momentum. Medvedev held at love in game 11, stealing Nadal’s serve at 15 with a backhand down the line for a 7-5 winner to reduce the aggregate deficit after two hours and 53 minutes.

The fourth set lasted over 50 minutes and it was a mighty close one, with Daniil winning a point more. He fended off two break chances to go 2-2 and delivered that crucial break in game ten after taking four straight points from 40-15 down.

The Russian finished the set with a return winner and was now one set away from one of the most notable comebacks in the Major final. Faced with an ultimate challenge, Rafa saved three break points in the second game of the fifth set in true champion fashion.

That allowed him to take charge and deliver breaks and open a massive lead in games five (his first after ten mediocre returns) and seven. At 5-2 the Spaniard lost focus, was timed and suffered a break from a double fault to keep Medvedev alive.

Daniil fought like a lion, deflecting two match points on serve with winners to reduce the deficit to 5-4 and force the Spaniard to serve the title. With no room for error, Rafa finally sailed across the finish line after fending off a break point in game ten to celebrate the title in one of the longest US Open finals in history.

“Experiencing the 2019 US Open final against Rafael Nadal was special. I understood: ‘Okay, well, I almost beat Rafa, two sets down and a break, so I belong here,'” said Daniil Medvedev.

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