Competing in his first Major final, Daniil Medvedev gave everything he had in the tank against Rafael Nadal in New York last year. Speaking about the encounter, Medvedev said there is nothing to regret about that one, as he couldn't do anything more than valiant comeback in the decider.
After four hours and 49 minutes of titanic battle, Nadal took down Medvedev 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 to collect the 19th Grand Slam crown and move even closer to Roger Federer. Rafa became the fifth player in the Open era with four titles in New York, having to work hard against the young Russian who gave his 120%.
Daniil had played over 20 matches in the past six weeks, saving enough energy to challenge Rafa in the last three sets and produce a memorable final. Both players had more winners than unforced errors in an incredible mixture of attacking tennis and a mind-blowing defense from both sides, proving they were the best players on the planet in that moment.
Nadal was two sets to love ahead and with a break in the third set before Daniil started to climb back, stealing the third set and setting up a decider in what could have been the most significant turnaround at the US Open in 70 years.
Nonetheless, Nadal managed to survive in the fifth set's opening service game and move over the top with a double break, barely bringing the victory home to fall to the ground in disbelief. The opening set lasted for more than an hour and it brought a grueling battle that offered two early breaks and a real struggle in the remaining games.
Nadal struggled to find the first serve and had to pay the price already in the third game when Daniil broke after a loose forehand from the Spaniard. The Russian couldn't stay in front for too long, though, spraying a backhand error in the next game to bring Rafa back to the positive side of the scoreboard, with three more chances on the return for world no.
2 at 4-3. Daniil repelled them all and survived another tough service game at 4-5 when he was two points from losing set four times. After those two first service games, Rafa was in the zone in the rest of the set, delivering one good hold after another and finally finding the way to steal Medvedev's serve in game 12 for a 7-5 after 63 minutes.
Daniil was the more aggressive player again in set number two, wasting a break chance in the first game and finding himself under a lot of pressure as he couldn't do much in the next four return games. Rafa squandered no less than four chances at 2-1, battling hard and earning the desired break two games later when Daniil netted a forehand after serve.
The youngster fell 4-2 down and allowed Nadal to close the set in game nine for a 7-5, 6-3 advantage.
After four good holds at the beginning of the third set, Rafa grabbed a break in game five when Medvedev netted a backhand, marching towards the finish line and looking more energetic.
Getting broken only once so far, the Spaniard played a loose service game to waste the advantage immediately, bringing Daniil back to 3-3. Rafa had more chances to go ahead at 4-4 when the youngster repelled a couple of break chances for a massive momentum that would provide him that one extra step he had to take.
Medvedev held at love in game 11 and stole Nadal's serve at 15 with a backhand down the line winner in the next game for a 7-5, reducing the overall deficit after two hours and 53 minutes and preparing for more drama in the rest of a thrilling encounter.
The fourth set lasted for more than 50 minutes and it was a mighty close one, with Daniil winning one point more in the end. He grabbed the only break to prevail, repelling two break chances at 2-2 and delivering that pivotal break in game ten after taking four straight points from 40-15 down.
The Russian closed the set with a return winner and was now a set away from one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history of the Major finals, earning boost ahead of the deciding set. Facing an ultimate challenge, Rafa saved three break points in the second game of the fifth set in a manner of a true champion.
That allowed him to take charge, deliver breaks in games five (his first after ten mediocre return games) and seven, opening a massive lead and serving for the title. Losing focus once again, the Spaniard received another time violation and suffered a break after a double fault to keep Medvedev in the match, prolonging what had already been an extraordinary clash.
Fighting like a lion, Daniil repelled two match points on serve with winners to reduce the deficit to 5-4 before Rafa finally sailed over the finish line after fending off a break point in game ten, celebrating the title in what had been one of the longest US Open finals in history.
"I don't regret that US Open final defeat against Rafael Nadal that much; I don't think there was something I could do better. Still, I had a break chance at 4-5 in the fifth, missing a forehand that maybe cost me the victory.
It's not like that I led 5-1 and lost the advantage; I did everything I could. As a competitor, I always like to win and I was disappointed to lose my first Grand Slam final. But I can't change that now," said Daniil Medvedev.