If he can beat Daniil Medvedev on Sunday at Flushing Meadows, Nadal will collect his fourth trophy in New York. Of more historical significance is that it would move him within one title of rival Roger Federer in the Slam standings. Right now, Federer leads the way with 20, Nadal is next with 18 and Novak Djokovic has 16.
In addition to his trio of U.S. Open triumphs, he already owns 12 titles from the French Open, two from Wimbledon and one from the Australian Open.
Nadal and Medvedev …
This will be the 27 th Grand Slam final of the No. 2-seeded Nadal’s career, and the first for No. 5 Medvedev, as 23 – year-old from Russia. Medvedev had never been past the fourth round at a major until now. Medvedev has been doing a lot of winning lately, playing going 20 – 2 during the North American hard-court swing and reaching the final at each of his past four tournaments. That includes a runner-up finish to Nadal at the Montreal Masters in August by a 6-3, 6-0 score.
What the 6-foot-6 (1. 97 – meter) Medvedev has grabbed the most attention for during the past two weeks is his interactions with the crowds at Flushing Meadows. During a third-round victory over Feliciano Lopez, he drew the ire of spectators for angrily grabbing a white towel from a ball person and later holding up his middle finger against his face. They began booing during the match, then really let him hear it at the end. Medvedev basked in the jeers, antagonizing people even more by saying their negativity helped him win.
A similar scenario played out after his next win, too. Since then, Medvedev has been apologetic about his trolling and much calmer during matches, while playing deliciously defensive tennis that he can abandon to be more aggressive when he deems necessary.
Those characteristics have carried Nadal to 18 Grand Slam championships so far. One more victory, and that’ll change to 19. And then, perhaps, Nadal can start to think about No. 20.