Tuesday 17 September 2019

Nadal hangs on in New York but Medvedev wins over crowd

Rafael Nadal. Photo: Getty Images
Rafael Nadal. Photo: Getty Images

Simon Briggs

A memorable US Open gave a sense of what tennis might look like in the years to come. A pair of rising stars - Bianca Andreescu and Daniil Medvedev - reached finals weekend, and both gave superb accounts of themselves under pressure.

After Andreescu had defeated Serena Williams in a breathless finale on Saturday, Medvedev came up just short against the indomitable Rafael Nadal 24 hours later. Their lung-bursting five-setter lasted four hours and 51 minutes and left Nadal in tears as he watched a pre-prepared video featuring clips from all 19 of his grand slam victories.

Moments later, in his interview with compere Chris McKendry, Medvedev brought the house down with his wry delivery. "When I was looking on the screen," he said, "and they were showing No 1, No 2... No 19, I was like, 'If I would win, what would they show?'"

What a transformation Medvedev has achieved in the six weeks since the American hard-court season began. At that early point, he was an obscurity. Then - after his temper snapped during his third-round US Open match against Feliciano Lopez - he was a pantomime villain, baiting the crowd with a middle-finger salute.

For a couple of matches, he revelled in his anti-hero status, upping the ante with a couple of provocative on-court interviews. Many enjoyed it, as a contrast from the cultivated blandness of so many leading players. Some even felt disappointed when Medvedev apologised for his outbursts. But it would have taken too much energy to maintain the persona.

"I know early in the tournament I said something in a bad way," Medvedev told the crowd, in another highlight of his perfectly judged speech. "Now I want to say it in a good way: it is because of your energy I am here!"

Medvedev is an unorthodox character, and clearly a nightmare to play against. Standing 6ft 6ins tall, and almost painfully skinny, he stalks around the court like some giant wading bird.

As for Nadal, he later described this as "one of the most emotional nights in my tennis career". Here was his fourth US Open - and more importantly a title that leaves him just one major short of Federer's 20. He always falls down backwards after winning a slam final, but this time he lay there for so long - overcome by exhaustion and relief - that you wondered if he needed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation

As for chair umpire Ali Nili, he received several choruses of boos - an echo of last year's trouble between Serena Williams and Carlos Ramos - for being presumptuous enough to give Nadal three time violations.

They are a rowdy bunch, in New York. But they certainly bring tennis to life.

© Daily Telegraph, London


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