US Open Wrap

US Open Wrap

By Richard Pagliaro

NEW YORK—An enthralling 2019 US Open launched with historic expectation and climaxed in pulsating elevation. 

A resilient Rafael Nadal edged a gallant Daniil Medvedev, 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 in a ferocious US Open final fight that spanned four hours, 49 minutes, took fans to skyscraper heights of excitement and will go down as a match for the ages. 

The king of clay solidified his status as an immortal champion winning his fourth US Open crown and capturing his 19thcareer Grand Slam championship—closing to one major of matching 20-time Grand Slam king Roger Federer’s record. 

 The 33-year-old Spaniard continues to out-pace the career clock collecting his record fifth major as a thirtysomething. 

Nine years after his first US Open title, Nadal touched the hearts of tennis fans all over the world breaking down in tears watching a video tribute to his major triumphs on the Arthur Ashe Stadium video screen while fans chanted “Rafa! Rafa!” 

“This trophy means everything to me,” Nadal said. “I normally try to hold the emotions, but at the end for all these facts have been impossible today.

Nineteen-year-old phenom Bianca Andreescu outclassed fan favorite Serena Williams, 6-3, 7-5, in the women’s final realizing a dream as the first Canadian Grand Slam singles champion and first teenager to raise a major title since Maria Sharapova ruled Flushing Meadows in 2006.  

The 15th-seeded Andreescu, who fell in US Open qualifying last summer and ended 2018 ranked No. 178, defeated Williams in last month’s Toronto final—and pumped herself up for the rematch playing the former No. 1 daily in her head. 

“It’s so crazy, man,” Andreescu said shedding tears in her post-match presser. “Honestly, I’ve been visualizing it almost every single day. For it to become a reality is just so crazy. I guess these visualizations really, really work.” 

Andreescu sent Serena to her fourth consecutive major final loss denying the 37-year-old icon her bid to match Margaret Court’s all-time record with her 24th major title. 

Despite a horrific serving day that saw her serve 44 percent and spit up eight double faults, Williams still fought back from 1-5 down in the second set to level before facing another agonizing near-major miss in front of a star-studded crowd that included buddies Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and director Spike Lee wearing a royal purple outfit to match Serena.  

“All of it honestly, truly is super frustrating,” Williams said. “I’m so close, so close, so close, yet so far away…I just got to keep fighting through it.”

We saw the love of a good fight in women’s doubles champions Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka, who defeated the former world No. 1 singles pairing of Victoria Azarenka and Ashleigh Barty in the final, 7-5, 7-5, for their first major doubles crown. 

Top-seeded Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah defeated Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos, 6-4, 7-5, making history as the first South American team to win the US Open men’s doubles title in the Open Era.

The Wimbledon champions dropped just one set in six match wins becoming just the third men’s team this century to win Wimbledon and the US Open in the same season. 

The first Russian man to contest the US Open final since Marat Safin stunned Pete Sampras to take the title 19 years ago, Medvedev won over US Opens fans—and New Yorkers—with his candor, humor, defiance and sheer guts. 

Rarely has one player ever delivered the dramatic role reversal the flat-hitting Russian pulled off in Flushing Meadows. 

The man fans loved to hate in week one after he fingered them and derisively thanked them following his win over Feliciano Lopez was embraced in a collective group hug by the 23,000-plus fans showing their admiration and respect chanting his name in unison. 

Medvedev gave the love right back. 

“I know earlier in this tournament I said something in a bad way and now I’m saying it in a good way: it’s because of your energy guys I'm in the final tonight,” Medvedev told the crowd  "It's gonna be always in my mind because I played in the biggest court in the tennis world and in the third set I was thinking what speech would I give.  You guys push me to prolong this match because you want to see more tennis and because of you guys I was fighting like hell.”

And that spirit gave us tennis heaven in a ferocious final. The US Open itself was a big winner, too.

The USTA reports the 2019 US Open set an attendance record of 737,872 fans and saw Arthur Ashe Stadium sell out 23 of 24 sessions.

If you’re like me, this US Open left you buzzed and breathless—both by champions who’ve commanded this stage for years and the brilliant breakthroughs of new stars who occupy our imaginations. 

“This may be the beginning of the end (of the Big 3),” Hall of Famer Cliff Drysdale, who celebrated his 40th anniversary as ESPN’s voice of tennis told us before finals weekend. “Because we’ve got some seriously talented young players, who are really beginning to believe that they can compete with and beat those guys. So that’s very exciting.”

Imagine how exciting Rafa’s quest for a 20th major title in 2020 to match Roger’s record will be while both rivals try to hold off 16-time major champion Novak Djokovic’s charge. 

“I would love to be the one who have more, yes,” Nadal said in the afterglow of starting and ending this decade as US Open champion. “But I really believe that I will not be happier or less happy if that happens or not happen. What gives you the happiness is the personal satisfaction that you gave your best.”

US Open champions gave us all that and more during a memorable Flushing Meadows fortnight.