NEW YORK -- Rafael Nadal defeated Daniil Medvedev in an epic five-set match, 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 to win the men's singles title at the 2019 US Open. It was Nadal's 19th Grand Slam singles title, and fourth US Open title.
With Sunday's victory, Nadal is just behind Roger Federer's all-time record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles, with 19. Novak Djokovic, the youngest of the 'Big Three' at 32-years-old, has a total of 16. Nadal also passed Djokovic with a fourth US Open title and is now one shy of Federer's record five.
"Tennis is more than Grand Slams," Nadal said after his win. "I feel honored to be part of this battle. All the things that I achieved in my career are much more than what I ever thought and what I ever dreamed."
Fifth-seeded Medvedev, 23, came up short in the first Grand Slam final appearance of his career.
After a tight first set which lasted 62 minutes, Nadal took over in the second. But the match turned Medvedev's way in the third set. After Nadal took advantage of his first break chance in the third set, for a 3-1 lead, Medvedev fought his way back and held for a 5-4 lead. A Nadal hold later and the third set was tied at 5-5. Medvedev won the next two games, and when he took the third set, he was greeted by 'Medvedev' chants from the Arthur Ashe crowd.
Nadal couldn't hold off another Medvedev rally, and the Russian dug deep to take the fourth set and force a fifth. In the fifth set, Nadal broke Medvedev on a 28-shot rally to go up 3-2 in the fifth, and after trading breaks, Nadal closed out the match to win the fifth set 6-4.
"I was fighting for every point," Medvedev said. "I think they [the crowd] appreciated it. As I said, being a break down in the third [set], I won the game, and I felt that these guys wanted some more tennis. They were cheering me up like crazy."
"I knew I have to leave my heart out there for them also. For myself first of all, but for them also. I think they saw it and they appreciate it. I'm thankful to them for this."
Entering Sunday's championship match, Nadal was 25-1 in his last 26 Grand Slam finals when he wins the first set. Nadal and Medvedev had previously faced each other once, prior to their meeting in Queens. Nadal won in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0 at the Rogers Cup final in August.
The pair came into the US Open with the most wins on the ATP Tour this year, Medvedev with 50 and Nadal with 46. Although Medvedev didn't close out the season with the first Grand Slam title of his career, he still played an impressive summer, and was spectacular in the lead up hard court events and throughout his path to the US Open final. In Sunday's final, Medvedev did what very few players on the ATP Tour can -- rattle Nadal. He showed an immense amount of emotional maturity on court, and kept fighting for every single point.
The last 12 Grand Slam tournaments have been won by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Nadal. The last time a player outside the 'Big Three' won a major championship was when Stan Wawrinka defeated Djokovic in four sets at the 2016 US Open. In 2019, Nadal played in three Grand Slam finals, winning two of the three. He lost to Djokovic at this year's Australian Open, but then extended his own record with a 12th French Open crown in Paris.
Sunday was the first five-set Grand Slam final against an opponent other than Federer or Djokovic, and the 19-time Grand Slam champion believes that Medvedev will have plenty more chances in his career.
"The way that he played, is a champion way," Nadal said of his opponent. "He has a great future. I really believe that he will be able to win Grand Slams. It's impossible to predict the future. But his career looks very, very well."
Stay with CBS Sports for live updates on the 2019 US Open men's singles final.
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