The 2019 US Open Men’s Final could provide the watershed moment with the NextGen finally loosening the stranglehold of the Big Three in the majors.
Finally, I'm here after three sets, I'm just happy to be in the final Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev has become the flagbearer carrying the hopes of the sport’s next generation as he takes on the 18-time Grand Slam champion Rafa Nadal in the title round at Flushing Meadows on Sunday.
While Medvedev, the inform Russian — who has reached the finals of Washington, Montreal, winning Cincinnati and all the in the run-up to New York — is making his debut in a Grand Slam final, his more experienced opponent is aiming for his fourth title at the Big Apple and 19th overall.
And the odds are in his favour, but Medvedev is relishing the challenge of bringing to an end the dominance of Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer at the majors.
“When I was going to USA, I didn’t know it was going to be that good,” the 23-year-old world No.5 said after ousting Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(5) 6-4 6-3 in the first of the semi-finals as he reflected on his summer’s run which matched that of Ivan Lendl in 1982 and Andre Agassi in 1995, the only other players to have made similar runs.
“I’ve done amazing things. Of course, deep inside of me, I understand that what I’ve done these four weeks is amazing, even comparing to what I’ve done before.
“Also, one more thing: I don’t want (it) to stop.”
As a personality he is also evolving, revelling in his ‘villain’ role when the crowd booed him in the third and fourth round after giving them the bird and then, following his wins, thanking them for energising him, fuelling his run to the final against the 78th ranked Bulgarian, Grigor Dimitrov.
“Finally, I’m here after three sets,” Medvedev said following his semi-final victory. “I’m just happy to be in the final.”
Medvedev is the first Russian in a Grand Slam final since Marat Safin won the 2005 Australian Open and the first Russian to reach the US Open final since Safin won the 2000 crown.
“Good match overall,” Dimitrov, who had after a poor run into New York, said. “I think it was just a few points here and there.
Yeah, three sets to love, but the score for me doesn’t justify the match itself. I think it was a good level. Overall, he played really well, fought hard, a lot of the key points he played well. So I don’t want to be too down on myself.”
Medvedev took the opening set on the tie-break when Dimitrov netted a forehand and sent another long on the last two points.
The pair exchanged breaks to open the second set and again in the fourth and fifth games but Dimitrov netted a backhand to surrender a break and the set in the 10th game.
Medvedev then broke for a 3-1 lead in the third and held to the finish, which came on a service winner after two hours and 38 minutes.
The Bulgarian was the lowest-ranked Slam semi-finalist in 11 years and the lowest at the US Open since 174th-ranked Connors in 1991.
Following the quarter-finals there were concerns that Rafa Nadal had picked up an injury as he required attention to his racket arm but, if he was carrying one in his semi against Matteo Berrettini, then it wasn’t obvious as he overcame the Italian 7-6(6) 6-4 6-1.
“It means a lot to be back where I am today after some tough moments at the beginning of the season,” the 33-year-old Nadal, who battled a right hip injury early in the year, said after reaching his 27th career Grand Slam final and his fifth in New York.
Nadal, who beat Medvedev in last month’s Montreal final 6-3 6-0 in their only prior meeting, commented on his final opponent: “He’s one of the more solid players on tour. He’s making steps forward every single week. He’s the player that is playing better on tour this summer.
“I need to be playing at my best.”
The Mallorcan has been in devastating form this past fortnight losing just one set in his six victories, and that came in the fourth round against Marin Cilic.
“The first set was a little frustrating because I had a lot of break points before the tie-break and he didn’t have any. In the tie-break, I was a little lucky but I survived and I finally got the break in the second and then the match completely changed,” Nadal, who saved two set points in the tiebreak, related.
“I started to play with more calm and aggression. I’m super happy to be back in the final of the US Open,” he added.
The final Grand Slam of the season pits the two most successful players of the year with Medvedev leading with 50 wins and Nadal on 46, and could well prove an epic clash. The odds though, still favour the more experienced player as he defends the grip the Big Three on the major titles.
For the record, of the last 39 slams, Nadal has collected 12, Djokovic 15 and Federer 5, making a total of 32.
Medvedev’s confidence, however, is high and he knows he will have to find a new level.
“Talking about Rafa, it’s tough to find words,” the Russian said.
“So many players and so many people found them before me. He’s one of the greatest champions in the history of our sport. He’s just a machine, a beast on the court. The energy he’s showing is just amazing.
“To play him in your first grand slam final should be, I want to say, a funny thing. It’s not going to be a funny thing, but it’s going to be an amazing thing to live.”