It may not have topped the last men's Grand Slam singles final, but for it to even be in the discussion is a testament to its quality, unpredictability and, ultimately, its significance. Daniil Medvedev, who entered the US Open on a hard-court tear not seen in years, faced Rafael Nadal, who was vying for a 19th career major title. A win would put the Spaniard just one behind Roger Federer on the all-time list.
The two met in August in a hard-court final, in Toronto. In that forgettable match, Nadal won 6-3, 6-0.
Any thoughts of a one-sided rematch were quickly dashed as the two played a most competitive first set; the battle would only intensify from there.
In the end—nearly five hours after the first ball was struck—Nadal won again: this time, 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4. We'll try our best to sum of this best-of-five set classic in just five photos.
1. Rafa roared to a two-set lead, and broke Medvedev early in the third. But from that point on, it was the fifth-seeded Russian who was the aggressor, constantly putting Nadal in positions of having to defend impeccably—or go for even more. Either way, it made for captivating tennis.
2. Medvedev's variety and fearlessness was a combination that dug him out of deep holes. He rallied from two sets down to force a fifth. He saved two championship points in the decider. And he very nearly recovered from a two-break deficit in the final set. Had he converted the break point he earned at 4-5, he would have taken this final—already a thriller—into an even more amazing place.
3. What we got was still amazing, of course. On his third championship point, on his serve, Nadal watched as a Medvedev shot landed beyond the baseline. A few seconds later, Nadal mimicked the wayward ball, falling to the green asphalt. He had just won his fourth US Open—one more than Novak Djokovic, and one fewer than Federer—for his 19th career Grand Slam singles title.
4. Medvedev lost the match, but he won over the New York crowd that had turned on him way back in the second round, when he angrily snapped a towel from a ball boy. His on-court interviews then were promos Paul Heyman would be proud of. On Sunday, he paid homage to the episode, but the fans were already won over by his charm and shotmaking.
5. Before Nadal received his latest piece of Grand Slam hardware, a video was shown of the 33-year-old's path to 19. Overcome by emotion, Rafa watched the sequence slowly unfold—to his credit, there was no shortage of archival footage—and seemed genuinely touched by the occasion. “You need to suffer on court. You need to pass through these moments to be at your full confidence," said Nadal. He did today, and 18 other times.