A Night to Remember

After this year’s astonishing Wimbledon final, many tennis fans thought that the sport had reached its peak for the year. However, Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev were the architects of a simply unforgettable tennis match which may go down as one of the classic Grand Slam finals of all time.

The match, in which Nadal eventually prevailed 7-5 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-4 in 4 hours and 49 minutes, had everything. It had drama, twists and turns, controversy, amazing tennis, some less impressive tennis and was played in great spirit, with the warm handshake at the end of the match showing the mutual respect that Nadal and Medvedev have for one another.

Nadal led by two sets and a break and it appeared as though Medvedev’s long hard-court summer, which saw him contest 23 matches in just 5 weeks, was finally going to catch up with him. Medvedev had cramped in the final of Cincinnati and his 2nd and 3rd Round matches at the US Open but was not to be defeated by his body. The match changed when Medvedev broke Nadal back to get to 3-3 in the 3rd set, before playing some amazing under-pressure tennis to rattle off the next 2 sets 7-5 and 6-4. Medvedev then held his opening service game and worked 2 break points at 1-0 in the fifth set. However, Nadal saved both break point opportunities and wrestled back control of the match, breaking Medvedev twice and racing to a 5-2 lead. But Medvedev refused to be beaten, breaking Nadal back and then saving match points while serving at 3-5 to force a nervy Nadal to serve the match out again. It looked as though Medvedev had turned things around when he worked a break point chance in that game, but Nadal found his best tennis when it mattered and held his nerve to win the match.

“This victory is so important for me,” said an almost tearful Nadal after the match. “Especially as the match became more and more difficult. I was able to hold the nerves. They were so high. It was a crazy match and I’m just very emotional. It was an amazing final. Daniil is only 23 years old and the way he was able to fight and change the rhythm of the match was amazing. He will have many more opportunities like this.”

Medvedev, who was unfairly booed onto court by a largely disrespectful US Open crowd after controversy earlier in the tournament, came full circle as he was raucously cheered in his post-match interview. “I was being myself. I was fighting for every point. I think they appreciated it,” Medvedev said. “I felt that these guys wanted some more tennis. They were cheering me up like crazy. I knew I had 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 appreciated it. I’m thankful to them for this.”

This victory takes Nadal’s tally of Grand Slams to 19, just one behind Roger Federer on 20. As Nadal is expected to win at least one more French Open title, maybe even 2 more, Nadal looks in pole position to overtake Federer’s Grand Slam tally and be considered the greatest of all time. Nadal has also strengthened his position in the race for year-end number one, pulling nearly 2,000 points ahead of current world number 1 Novak Djokovic in the Race To London.

For Medvedev, an incredible summer post-Wimbledon has seen him surge up the world rankings to Number 4 in the world and has also seen him qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals in London. He has earned many fans with his run to the US Open final and has shown the world that there certainly is life after Federer, Nadal and Djokovic by becoming the first up and coming player asides from Dominic Thiem to make a significant impact at a Grand Slam.

While the old guard stayed in power in the men’s game, the women’s draw threw up yet another first time Grand Slam champion in the form of 19 year old Bianca Andreescu, who defeated 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams 6-3 7-5 in a match which only really saw Williams challenge Andreescu for four games before being put back in her place by a much younger and fresher opponent.

Andreescu, like Medvedev, also battled against a crowd who didn’t show too much evidence of any knowledge of tennis etiquette and actually covered her ears on occasions to block out the deafening noise produced by the crowd, particularly when Williams broke back to level the second set. Mental fortitude like that is simply unprecedented for a 19-year-old, who was 18 years younger than her opponent.

Williams has now been stuck on 23 Grand Slams for a long while now and looks less and less likely to overtake Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams. She has faltered in 3 finals in a row, raising questions over whether her fitness is still good enough for her to maintain the required level to win 7 matches in 2 weeks.

Written by Emre Saridogan