You can not really call Daniil Medvedev a rookie but compared to Rafa Nadal he is definitely the new kid on the block when it comes to playing the finals of majors. Just at the US Rafa's fifth time in the final (27th overall at the majors) and he is staring at the title, his most recent one was 2017. By comparison Daniil is in his first final in the world.
They came into the final with only a slight variation in the score lines; the Russian beat Grigor Dimitrov 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 and the Spaniard ended the Matteo Berrettini 7-6, 6-4, 6-1.
"Before to play the final is not the moment to be super happy," Mr. Nadal said. "Of course, finally when the tournament finishes, if you lose, when you look at the global perspective, okay. Now is a moment to enjoy (the semi-final). I just try to be 100% ready for the final, very happy. Another final of the Great Slam, and another end here in Flushing Meadows means a lot to me. So happy. "
For Mr. Medvedev, Ivan Lendl in 1982 and Andre Agassi in 1995, to reach final in Washington, DC, Canada, Cincinnati and the US Open. His record is an outstanding 20-2 and he has won matches this year.
The confidence generated from those weeks was the factor that got him past Mr. Dimitrov who was the better player for at least the first set and a half – pretty much all the stats were more favourable to him. What that shows are stats often don’t mean much. It is winning the important points that matter and that is what Mr. Medvedev was doing.
“Confidence means a lot, he was the better player in the first set, and I was lucky to win it but then the momentum changed completely,” Mr. Medvedev said, something he will need to apply big time in the final.
“This summer’s been, I should say, so fast and long at the same time. Long because I’ve played so many matches. At the same time fast I didn’t have any moment to sit down and look back and say okay, I’ve done amazing things.
“Hopefully I will have time after Sunday. It’s going to be the last match in USA summer. Deep inside me I understand that what I have done these four weeks is amazing, even comparing to what I have down before.
“Also, one more thing: I don’t want to stop. I will always work to be better. I will try to do my best every day.”
It is a philosophy all the biggest names have. It is inconceivable for someone like Mr. Nadal to even let one ball go despite being streets ahead in a match. To say he is relentless would not be giving him enough credit. He would drive the sanest person crazy with the blistering returns he keeps hitting; you get fed up and then try something crazy with no success. Mr. Nadal makes you do that.
“Talking about Rafa, its tough to find the words. 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 is 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 very funny thing, but it’s going to be an amazing thing to live.”
The words were appreciated by Mr. Nadal who said in return: “The summer is just almost perfect. Final is Washington, final in Montreal, winning Cincinnati, final here already. Is the player who is in better shape on tour. I will face the player who is winning more matches of the year and the player who is playing on the highest level for a while.”
Medvedev is the first Russian to reach the US Open final since Marat Safin in 2000 and the first Russian again since Mr Safin in 2005 at the Australian Open to reach the final of a major. At 23 he is the youngest US Open men's finalist since Novak Djokovic at the same age in 2010.