Victory in the US Open final would put the Spaniard just one major title behind his great rival Roger Federer
Not for the first time, John McEnroe stirred the game into debate when he asserted that Roger Federer may finish his career with fewer grand slam titles than Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Who would have thought that possible? the walking quote asked on air shortly before Nadal stilled the robust challenge of the 23-year-old Italian Matteo Berrettini on Friday night to reach the final of the US Open for the fifth time, against Daniil Medvedev on Sunday.
The Spaniard has won three of his 18 majors on this court, Federer has won five of his 20 here in a row, the last of them 11 years ago and Djokovic, the world No 1, has lifted three of 16 at Flushing Meadows. Federer and Djokovic have left town: the Swiss spent and hurting with a bad back, the Serb forced to quit with a shoulder injury.
Nadal, normally the member of the Big Three most susceptible to breakdown, is still standing and looking awesome again. But his ingrained sense of caution and respect would not allow him to entertain serious thoughts about moving to within one slam of Federer, who turned 38 three weeks ago, and push three clear of Djokovic.
We are all still playing, he said of the most engaging rivalry in sport. When I arrived here, my goal was to produce a chance to compete for the big thing again. Here I am. I give myself another chance, as I did at Wimbledon, as I did in Australia, as I did at Roland Garros. Thats the personal happiness.
Of course, I would love to be the one who achieves more grand slams, but I still sleep very well without that. Sunday, its just one more chance, thats all. My opponents are going to keep playing. You cannot be all day frustrated or thinking about what your neighbour has thats better than what you have. Be happy with yourself.
Nadal saved two set points in his first-set tie-break against Berrettini, and was mightily relieved to push on and win the second semi-final 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-1. If Berrettini had pickpocketed the set, the evening might have turned into the sort of struggle that would sap the 33-year-old Nadals reserves of energy before the final. So, instead of getting dragged into a four- or five-setter, he finished the job in under two and a half hours. Long enough to sharpen up his game, not too long to wear him out.
Winning the first set would have meant a lot, Berrettini said. Its tough to go a set down after an hour with him. In back-to-back majors, the world No 24 has now lost to two players with 38 slam titles between them: Federer in the fourth round at Wimbledon and Nadal here.
When told that Berrettini described him as a beast, a machine, Nadal smiled and said: I just hope to be like this on Sunday. I will need it. Nadal, who never underestimates an opponent, said of Medvedev: His summer is almost perfect: final in Washington [where he lost to Nick Kyrgios], final in Montreal [where Nadal beat him 6-3, 6-0], winning Cincinnati [in two sets against David Goffin after beating Djokovic in the semis], final here. He is the player who is in the best shape on tour. I will face the player who is winning more matches than anyone else this year [44 of 60], the player who is playing at the highest level.
It is a super-tough final. I need to be playing at my best. At the end of the match, I increased my level again. I need to hold this level if I want to have chances on Sunday. If not, is so difficult. He is very, very solid.
The lanky Russians five career titles have all arrived this year, along with more than half of his $6m career earnings. In New York over the past fortnight, he has moved from anonymity to star, winding up the crowd, who booed him then loved him; the self-styled new bad boy of tennis. But he can play.
Like Berrettini with Nadal, Grigor Dimitrov also took Medvedev to a tie-break then faded over two hours and 38 minutes, although he competed well in the first set after dropping the opening service game to love. Medvedev, like Nadal, remained rock-steady all the way.
As for his new persona, Medvedev laughed and then got serious, and said: I want to be a better person than I was a few days ago.
This is business. If he is a better player than a few days before, he is more than capable of putting Nadals charge at the majors mountain on hold.
Original Article : HERE ;
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