Rafael Nadal Shows Why the Young Guard Will Have to Wait

Against 23-year-old Daniil Medvedev, Nadal again proved the logic-defying dominance of the Big Three: He, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are still at the top of the rankings.

Comments: 110

  1. As a long-time Nadal fan, I will miss him and his Big Three cohorts (plus Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, honorary members) when their reign is over. Until now, I didn’t even think I would have a sustained interest in men’s tennis when that finally happens. But Medvedev’s astonishing performance in the U.S. Open final convinced me there is at least one player from a younger generation with the talent and character to help fill the vacuum. Maybe I will be able to go on watching men’s tennis after all.

  2. @Unpresidented I thought Matteo Berrettini pretty darn impressive, too.

  3. "It was exhausting and thrilling to play, and in the final three sets, exhausting and thrilling to watch." Also, "It was all-court tennis and all-in tennis". Very well encapsulated!

  4. An epic match. Two players hitting shots and returning shots in ways one almost never sees for an extended period (i.e., most of the match). Medvedev looks so spindly and easily likely to be the one tiring in the 5th set. He wasn’t! A remarkable pleasure to watch. And to see how fine the differences between winning and losing a match can be. Nadal got emotional after and squandered opportunities during. But he pulled it out in the end. The mental toughness of the “big three,” in addition to their prodigious physical and strategic talent, leaves one reeling. The stat cited after the match was that they have won 57 of the last 59 Grand Slams! In the last 15 years, they have missed out on 3 Grand Slams. It should not be possible. They have made it so. One can’t avoid platitudes. How lucky we are to see it (sorry all the other men’s players who’ve come and gone - Medvedev, I think you’re going to be around and make your own dent - others have seemed to offer this, but you seem to have the mental and physical combo to pull it of - I think!).

  5. @AJ I think 54 of 57, not 58 of 69. Still...

  6. @AJ It's 54 out of the last 64 for the Big Three in GS (2004-2019).

  7. Astonishing. What a champion! A sportsman for all times! Objectively, the best tennis player ever, catching Federer's slams is of no importance for this (as those were anyway gained against the now largely forgotten rivals). Isn't it amazing that all those playing with and losing to him for years will only have their chance once Nadal's body finally gives up? As long as it serves him, they can only last this or that long, but not beat him. Only Djokovic has ever been able to manage Nadal. Well done Rafa, the champion of the champions. From a Djokovic's supporter.

  8. "Nadal, one of tennis’s great defenders" played 66 points at the net of which 20 serve and volley with 78% success. The best kept secret in tennis might be that he's also quite an attacker

  9. Medvedev won the crowd over, not only with his thrilling play, but with his charm at the award ceremony. He acted boorishly in an earlier match, and sincerely apologized several times. He then made a joke about the organizers having no footage to show of him, had he won - unlike Nadal with his 19 U.S. Open titles. He is one to watch, and I'll be front and center - I saw some shots at this match I didn't believe possible.

  10. @Bill Prange I agree he is an unbelievable talent. A while back, when I was a rock-climber, I noticed how climbers with his kind of "wiry" power (tall, with high strength to body weight) made for spectacular climbers. The only thing that stands in his way is the injury question. But if he is durable, he will be a factor for the next 10+ years in men's tennis.

  11. That Medvedev could come back from 0-2 to tie was epic. That Nadal could once again summon his will to win in the fifth set was incredible.

  12. @Kelly R That Nadal could summon the will to intentionally delay his opponent's serve at crucial moments was...incredible. Lost my respect.

  13. @Alpenglo Nadal's "idiosyncricies" have been known for a long time to players and spectators. He is not the only one who uses such tactics, either deliberately or unintentionally. That said, the rule in tennis is that the receiver of the serve is required to play to the pace of the server. I'm unaware of a rule that says Medvedev was required to wait for Nadal to be "set" to receive. So, it would have been controversial, and the boos would have reigned down, but imo Medvedev could have simply served when he was ready, regardless of whether or not Nadal was ready to receive. And if he did it once or twice and won the point(s) without opposition, you can bet Nadal would have started playing to Medvedev's pace.

  14. Nadal is brilliant. Serena, alas, has never played against a player who plays like Serena, until now.

  15. @jahnay Yes, but she did something Nadal will never do. She had a baby.

  16. @TripleJ she is also close to 40. Kim Clijsters won the US open after having a baby. Please stop. Women/moms are not that fragile. We bounce back to fitness pretty quickly after childbirth. Especially when if we have a gazillion dollars to spend on trainers, dieticians, etc. It is age, not motherhood

  17. I am a fanatic fan of Nadal. He for me represents the ultimate in Tennis in terns of array of shots, strength, stamina, grace and humility. Winning Tennis grand-slams, often requires super-human effort. Nadal already has more Tennis Masters wins, than anyone in Tennis history. Nadal has 19 Grand slams from 57 Grand slams he has played in. Federer has 20 from 77 he has played in. So, in percentage terms, there is no competition there. Hopefully Nadal has a few more years to go at this level of strength and performance. He is the Greatest of all sportsmen in history.

  18. Fielding a retirement question in 2011, Federer said that he would "at least" keep playing until the 2012 London Olympics, to be played at Wimbledon. This year he held match points there, in an insanely close 5 set final with Novak. Nadal just triumphed at the US, and also won the French this year, dropping only two sets there. And there appear to be no serious contenders to displace him in Paris in 2020. Djokovic still looks and plays like a 25 year old. Those of us who follow tennis, and who enjoy the longevity of these greats, feel compelled to say that our cup runneth over.

  19. I love sports- but- also had a busy business day the following morning and needed Togo to sleep early but there was no way. It would have been disrespectful to turn off this match and instead find out in the morning who won. This was classic- a true historic match. This phenomenal Champion- Nadal/ who simply does not quit- and this incredible challenger- Medvedev- who challenged with strength; youth; Fantastic match. Thank you to both these players. A match history will not forget.

  20. Sounds like quite the match. I wish it had been broadcast on network television.

  21. @Not so rich Amen. It's mean-spirited to give a premium cable network sole rights.

  22. I am a long time Nadal fan. I suffer when he loses and rejoice at his wins. I was all nerves when yesterday's match began, I knew Medevedev would be a challenge. After three sets I was too stressed to keep watching. I walked out the door, without my phone, and took a long stroll around the neighborhood. No I wasn't relaxed but it was a beautiful day and I reminded myself that it was 'just' tennis. I returned home in time to see Rafa serve for the win. Phew! Thank you tennis for an incredible sport and thank you Rafael Nadal for your gift. You are truly a super person in my eyes.

  23. Wonderful match, and as fine a GS final as we will ever see. It is extraordinary that one..let alone all three of the top ranked players from 10 years ago would still rank in the same place. It strains credulity to breaking point..extraordinary competitive spirit, and well done. In my opinion, Novak will ultimately surpass both his long term rivals in terms of GS wins, 'though of course that doesn't solely define the GOAT, but it's to be hoped he'll one day be recognized for the extraordinary player he is, rather than an inconvenient interloper...he deserves it (Murray escaped that label because for some time he was the plucky loser). My personal view is that Rafa edges RF (and Novak right now), since he adapted a one-surface game to 2 x others, and in addition beat RF at the absolute peak of his powers in the '08 Wimbledon final. But that's the beauty of sport...everyone has their own opinion. Lastly, congrats to Bianca on winning the ladies final with a fantastic display, even if Serena 'didn't turn up' as she herself said. It's hard to argue that Serena is the greatest female player of all time, but amongst the constant tv references to Margaret Court's 24 titles, let's take a moment to remember...Steffi Graf won 22 grand slam singles titles...and she retired at the age of 30. That's deserves more than a mere footnote.

  24. @DL thank you. My favourite was always Monica Seles but her career was cut short. Steffi is hardly ever mentioned in these discussions. If she'd had the benefit of the fitness technology and modern sports preparation that Serena and others have access to, who knows what Steffi could have accomplished. Certainly more than 24. I am personally tired of the Serena 'working for moms everywhere' narrative. Coming back in sports after childbirth is certainly really tough. But let's get real, coming back when you are headed to 40 is the actual hard part. Kim Clijsters won the US Open as a mom (against Serena who berated a line judge throughout the 2009 match) when she was young. Serena's challenge is getting close to 40, not being a mom

  25. @Kristina Steffi Graff retired when she was 30. Not 37 (a few weeks from 38) like Serena is now. I think we can all agree she would have won many more slams if she played longer, but she wanted to enjoy the rest of her life. Very questionable that that makes Serena Williams a greater player. Greater showman for sure.

  26. @JerseyGirl we are in agreement. I think if Steffi had carried on, she would have blown past 24 slams easily

  27. A rarely noted quality of the great Nadal is his empathy — a quality totally missing in our hideously inadequate President. I recall this quality in Naomi Osaka, who made the overwhelmed Coco Gauff share in the victor’s ceremony this year. This effectively banished the brutal tennis ritual that the loser has to skulk off into the night while the victor basks and celebrates. But how amazing it is to recall that the victorious Rafa embraced and comforted a teary Roger Federer after an epic finale in the Australian Open. The appearance of empathy, AFTER the match, in one of the sport’s most ferocious competitors was amazing and unforgettable. What relief and release it was to watch Rafa and Daniil exemplifying their excellent qualities after years of TV time consumed by the tired and exhausting-to-watch political mediocrities and their attendant pundits before us!

  28. @Ralph I think it's false to comfort one's defeated opponent. Tennis players are among the most competitive people on the planet. To this viewer, there's something a bit patronizing about what Osaka did, but most fans seem to think highly of her gesture. The empathy of which you speak makes them seem like entertainers more than athletes/competitors. That's my take.

  29. @Anti-Marx You think it's false? As in untrue? So what we think Osaka did, didn't actually happen. Interesting take.

  30. @Jake False as in for the sake of her public image. She didn't do it in private, She did it on national TV.

  31. What's mind boggling is that Nadal's accomplishments were all during Roger Federer's prime with Nadal leading the head to head 24–16; Federer taking 7 of the last 8. What’s more I believe all but one of Nadal’s grand slam finals losses has been to Federer or Djokovic. Sunday night was incredible. Medvedev was a buzz saw sets three and four. Considering how brilliant Nadal was playing, it was almost unfair. Medvedev was almost invincible. The umpire's serve time violations were gut-wrenching. They had no place in such a high quality match. And the junctures at which the calls went against Nadal could've been the difference last night. But the strength and wherewithal to maintain his composure during those egregious calls was world class by Nadal. Heading into the decisive fifth set, Medvedev was a juggernaut. While both players were vulnerable at times Medvedev played with steely resolve. The Spanish commentators said his whole team had ice in their veins. Nadal had his back to the ropes and was getting pummeled but he refused to lose. Maybe it was the sleeveless shirt, but he played so strong looking as fit as ever. It was one of the best tennis matches I’ve ever seen maybe a fraction behind the 2008 Wimbledon final when Nadal beat Federer on grass for the first time. That match was almost 5 hours and ended at dusk. It was beyond epic but last night was right there.

  32. Nadal didn't win. The umpire won it for him. His behaviour under pressure was detestable and demonstrated that he woud have been a sore loser.

  33. @joseph Or, he won despite the umpire giving time violations at critical points. One in the first game while Rafa was defending break point. Another led to loss of serve while serving for the championship after the crowd wouldn't stop making noise. Clock is supposed to stop for crowd. Incredible resolve by Nadal to withstand umpire intervention because the ATP thinks it's critical to diminish play quality in order to have 25 seconds between points instead of 27 or 28. Such a bizarre rule.

  34. I’m a Rafa fan, but the umpire did stop the clock regularly for fan noise. And remember in the pre-clock days, Rafa took forever between points. 40 seconds or so - a very long time when nothing else is happening. And a very long time when it happened point after point after point.

  35. It’s a pity such a great player as Rafael Nadal follows the Monica Seles form of hitting a tennis ball, with a wail! That’s a fault! And it says a lot about the corrupt Tennis establishment, especially the greedy U.S.T.A., that let this unnecessary diversion into the game!

  36. @Counter Measures It is actually scientifically proven that making while hitting the ball helps your game. They have done research. And Seles was the first to prove that works.

  37. Wait—what?

  38. @Counter Measures This is obviously a joke.

  39. I'm undecided about which is more boring to watch: professional golf or tennis?

  40. @John S. no one is forcing you to watch either! Why denigrate those who enjoy either or both?

  41. @John S. Great post bro!

  42. While it's truly miraculous that three players have dominated the men's game for so long, I disagree that the young guard are that far behind. Medvedev was certainly Nadal's equal last night, and but for a handful of points - as well as some less than becoming gamesmanship on Nadal's part - could have won the match. Schwartzman and Berretini, despite losing in straight sets, also gave him a run for his money, as have other up-and-comers, like Shapovalov a couple of years ago. Nevertheless, Nadal remains at the top of his game, as does Djokovic, and they have every reason to push on. Prince Federer, on the other hand, although he continues to be a superior player, peaked almost a decade ago, before the other two truly came into their own. At this point, I don't see that he has any reason to continue other than to try and pad his record. (He can't possibly need the money.) As it is, even though he maintains his slim lead in Grand Slam Titles, a less superficial reading of the numbers clearly shows him to be #3 of The Big Three. And, like his female counterpart, Queen Serena, his outsized ego and sense of entitlement have come to cast a shadow on every match he plays in. I would like to see both of them bow out gracefully and make some room for the next generation, before they really start to decline. Neither will be less of a legend if they never win another match.

  43. Did you forget Federer won the Australian Open less than a couple of yeats who His fans don’t want him to quit Also Roger played an awesome Wimbledon final for the ages !! Hello!

  44. @Rose He won 16 of his 20 majors between 2003 and early 2010, mostly before Nadal and Djokovic hit their prime. Only 4 since then. Hasn't won the US Open since 2008! Still one of the better players, but not quite up to the level of the hype. At a certain point, you have to give it up.

  45. @jr did it occur to you that federer just might love the game and the competition even if he doesn't win. i imagine venus williams is the same.

  46. @Christopher Clarey: Another shining piece in a career of cogently-contructed, lyrically-penned articles about the world of tennis. Thank you.

  47. It was a great match - kudos to both players who dug deep and played with all their heart. I cannot say the same for the NYC fans - who exhibited in this match and in the women’s final - rude behavior in applauding at double faults, yelling in the middle of points, and acting like a drunk soccer crowd. The chair was hardly able to contain the noise and rude behavior (he could have done a better job). It certainly could have affected many of the points. Have the fans no respect for what the players are trying to achieve? It is not a pro wrestling match. I found it appalling.

  48. @Sam Kanter Agree with you!

  49. I'd like to see mutual stats of Federer, Nadal, Djokovich against each other...I suspect Federer is not the leader within this elite triumvirate.

  50. @Chandan Kumar Matches won is the ultimate metric.

  51. @Chandan Kumar easy to google. federer is behind. nadal and djokovich only a few matches apart.

  52. Although he lost, Medvedev made a big statement yesterday. He is the next ace behind the "big three" with unbelievable composure for a 23 years old kid and a consistency in his play that cannot be found with other youngsters. Also, the modesty of his demeanor, including his very laid-back way to dress is very unusual in those circles. About his play, I am very impressed by his economy of movements, based on perfect footwork and a great sense of anticipation reminiscent of Mats Wilander or Fabio Fognini, players who do not seem to move much. This fellow is not done surprising us...

  53. Medvedev played like he'd been there before even though yesterday was his first Grand Slam final. Usually a green player starts tight and takes a few games to settle down, but not Medvedev. He came out swinging and had Nadal on the ropes and kept punching him in the face. I kept thinking Medvedev can't keep playing impossible tennis like this, but he did on every serve, long rally, and drop shot. Medvedev never wilted or buckled but invited the pressure all match. What an extraordinary competitor woke by the US Open crowd wishing to see more tennis. As for Nadal, I pumped my fist before going to sleep well after 3 in the morning. Rafa wrecked my Monday but it was worth it to witness greatness.

  54. It was a great match, marred only by Nadal's boorish behavior at the beginning of the 5th set. He bent the rules (stopping play, suddenly deciding he needed a different racquet, going over the serve time throughout the match even though the ref called him on it only twice, etc.) something that someone of his position in the sport can do. Medvedev proved impervious to it and Nadal then had to match up on the court with him, straight up. Which he did. He does not need to demean himself the way he did early in the 5th.

  55. O disagree with you completely Stopping play in time today change racquets is done frequently Nadal is the epitome of professionalism

  56. @jlc1 agree that the big three get leniencies on court. At least Rafa is not trashing his opponents the way Serena has been in post match press conferences. On court Serena was glowing about Bianca's performance. Off court, she demeaned it by saying that she herself played terribly and that the real Serena did not show up. At some point all of these players pushing 40 will have to admit that 'real player X' cannot beat players 1/2 their age. 'Real Serena' retired at 35

  57. @Rose I, for one, have never seen it done after going to the baseline as if ready to return serve. And it does not address the other delays, like stopping Medvedev mid-serve because of noise, etc. but as I say he does not need to stoop to such tactics and it is a shame that in this match he did.

  58. Nasal is great, but he’d be better if he stopped the time wasting games at crucial moments. I’m glad that the crowd boo’d him when he tried his tricks. And Im thrilled that it didn’t phase Medvedev one little bit.

  59. @Anita Larson Medvedev still lost

  60. @Anita Larson: his "slowing down of play" is believed to be linked to his possibly OCD/ADHD habits and are probably out of his control. There is a clock, so nothing he did was "illegal" or actually even new for him.

  61. A match for the ages, five hours of can you top this from both players. Medvedev looks like the real deal, one of the few young players that can crash the big three's party in the near future. Last, take every opportunity to watch Nadal when you can. Other players who have had his rare level of success win with a ton of racquet talent, but hit the ball conventionality, very well. Nadal is one of those once in a generation players, like McEnroe in his prime, that nobody is going to come along and teach someone how to replicate how he varies spins, pace, and direction in a rally. If it was possible to replicate, someone would have emerged by now that the experts say hits like Nadal. Even after all his years on the tour, I have yet to hear any tennis commentator say about another player that they look even vaguely similar. It also doesn't hurt that after a match he never fails to compliment an opponent, so the individual on the other side of the net doesn't feel bad even in cases that were a lot less competitive than this match.

  62. Nadal can be considered as one of the best tennis players of all time, he is a class act and wish him all the best. He is not as popular as Federer but he handles himself in a humble way and has a true heart of a champion.

  63. Let's see..Rafa has 19 Grand Slam titles, the Olympic gold medal in both singles and doubles. He also has 35 ATP masters 1000 titles (a record) and people are commenting here about how he held up play during yesterday's match. It's apparent that a lot of commenters bashing Rafa have clearly not seen him play a lot of tennis over the years. If the chair umpire in yesterday's match had no problem with it (besides giving him time warnings on his serve) why are people commenting on it? Guess some people will never be happy. I am thrilled Rafa won yesterday. I love the guy. He is a class act and a gentleman.

  64. @susan could not have said it better. He is truly the GOAT and a model for hard work, dedication, and class. Rafa will end the big-three era with the most Grand Slam titles

  65. @susan No doubt. Its like a euphemism for " get off my lawn" guy. That was a gutsy match by both players. Medvedev's style was sure to be difficult test for Rafa. Rafa is a true champion! Daniil's time will come soon. The best of the young lot coming up. Zerevev has gone backwards this year as well.

  66. Nadal barely prevailed against a young guy who has a lot of room for improvement. Federer fell fairly easily. I suspect that this is the last hurrah for the big three. Although, Rafa probably has at least one more French Open victory in him.

  67. Rafa Nadal lost my fandom yesterday. Can you imagine Federer intentionally slowing down play and delaying his opponent's serve? The umpire should've docked him further. I didn't come into this US open expecting to be rooting for a Russian pituitary case, but what can ya do when one of your heroes borderline cheats to win. Not the behavior of a "legend".

  68. @Alpenglo - Nadal has ALWAYS taken forever between serves. Nobody says it out loud, but he's one of the main reasons there's a clock.

  69. @Alpenglo Serena Willams

  70. @alpengio I could not object more to your use of the word “cheating”. You must not watch tennis much or you’d know Rafa has always taken a long time performing his OCD pre-serve ritual. It’s part of his routine - You may disagree with it or find it tedious, but it’s not kind to call that cheating. Let’s be kind in our comments of one another.

  71. Golden Age of Tennis Long live the 3

  72. The old guard? Federer lost, Djokovic had to attend to an injury, and Nadal barely won the game, in 5 sets. What I missed from the old guard and the new guard were the aces; aces and successful 1st serves were a rarity. I think the whole Guard is missing. And what I dislike most is all players showing their fists. I think the US Open should ban fists, as well as loud noises from the players, just for hitting the ball.

  73. @Dap While they're at it, how about yelling from the spectators when the players are about to serve?! Only boorish idiots feel the need to do this. I would gladly be the guy to eject these people from the stadium.

  74. @Dap what about making them use tiny wood racquets?

  75. @brupic ...and tight, really, really tight, tiny shorts :)

  76. Rafael Nadal is a phenomenal athlete. He holds an astounding record on clay. Yesterday’s match was thrilling. His game Face ID fierce and his smile, upon winning, melts hearts worldwide. To watch his intensity and emotion as he watched the replay of his 19 Grand Slams was a gift to his fans. He is also, by far, the sexiest thing to hit men’s tennis. Just take a look at Skakira’s Gypsy video.

  77. It's not MY US Open. So I guess I have no right to watch it. But why is even the final not broadcast on TV? Could advertising not cover the cost? I listened to it on the radio. I understand plenty of programming is pay-to-view, but I thought this was a national event everyone could partake in. My mistake. Tennis is still not for the masses. Still a fan but wish it was more accessible to all Americans. Does anyone think so? Or are the people with an ESPN subscription the only ones reading this article?

  78. The broadcast rights go to the highest bidder. Obviously that's ESPN. If the networks thought they could get enough money from selling commercials they would bid more but they don't so they can't. ESPN can be obtained fairly cheaply in a number of ways such as sling TV. If you really want to be cheap you can sign up for a two-week free trial and watch the US open then cancel.

  79. @JerseyGirl: that's not being "cheap"....anything anyone can do to score a point or two against these megalithic corporations is a good thing.

  80. This is a great point. It’s a crime that this was not on network TV. I was shocked to learn it was not. Really, really a crime.

  81. Rafa obviously could have had a few more time-wasting penalties. The Russian might well have won that match had he played that looper that fell in. But, the Russian will have his day(s)- and maybe as soon as next year. Rod Laver lost 6 years of Grand Slam events as a pro. He won all four in his last amateur year. he won all four in the first year of open tennis. He won 11 of 16 in which he competed in his prime. He surely would have won at least half of the 24 that he missed. Really the mind boggles at what his overall record might have been.

  82. @Lefthalfbach agree but laver won his second slam in the second year of the open era.

  83. Nadal is a blacksmith.

  84. Time will take its toll. No one is immune from the sports Grim reaper. Patience.....

  85. It seemed to me like Rafa got at least one time violation because of the audience, who couldn't quiet down before the clock ran out. The umpire was saying "please, ladies and gentlemen" for Medvedev's serves much more quickly than for Rafa's throughout the match until well into the 5th set, after Rafa lost a first serve to a time violation and then lost the point. After that he (the ump) seemed to get his act together in that regard. And before we start accusing Rafa of gamesmanship by slowing down play, let's remember that he has *always* taken forever between serves. Anyone who has seen him play any time in the last 12 years is familiar with his borderline OCD body-touching routine before every point, followed by bouncing the ball eleven times if he's on serve. It can't be a surprise to any of his opponents; they probably factor in the extra 15 seconds of rest they can expect before every point... for all the good it does them once he finally starts to play.

  86. Federer was out in the quarterfinals against an unseeded opponent. We've been "waiting" for his 21st major victory for over 2 years now. Djokovic was being beaten in the round of 16, before he retired due to injury. And Nadal struggled in a 5-setter against an upcoming 23 year old opponent with unbelievable talent, and whose injuries made him look like a mummy at times through the 2 weeks. To be continued in January 2020 at the Oz... The "young guard" may not have to wait much longer than that before they replace the "big 3" (old guard).

  87. @Dan88 Nadal's record this year is 47/6--he lost only 3 matches against the "so-called young guard"-- all 3 very close matches. They may not have to wait much longer--but they haven't arrived--which is the point being made.

  88. @Acep1111 OK, in that case I am making a closely-related point to the one in the article.

  89. Despite the delays that are part of Nadal's play, and for which he was rightly penalized by the umpire, he showed that he is, along with Djokovic, probably the greatest competitor in tennis. Going to the 5th set I was expecting Medvedev to win, since he remained unflappable, but Nadal moved to another gear. Medvedev got our respect and I predict that he will win at least one slam in 2020. The NextGen is here.

  90. When you say, “...greatest competitor in tennis...” remember to confine that comment to tennis’ Men’s game. Last I looked, Serena is the greatest in tennis or any sport...ever

  91. @LadyinSiliconValley Only if you overlook the quality of the game. Serena's is the greatest in women's tennis by a mile - but there were/are no consistently good opponents in the women's tour.

  92. Why the emphasis on the "youth" of the so-called New Guard? Medvedev played exceptionally well and had a personal breakthrough yesterday in his first Grand Slam final, but he's 23 not a teenager. Nadal won his first Grand Slam at 18 and had racked up 6 more plus an Olympic Gold medal by age 23; Federer won his first Grand Slam at 22; Djokovic won his first at 20; Sampras at 19 was the youngest US Open winner. And that was the START of their grand slam wins. This New Guard are essentially mid-twenties, most of whom have yet to make it to a final much less win won. I'm perfectly happy to watch the Old Guard carry on as long as they are able. We are watching a platinum age in tennis.

  93. @knitfrenzy I agree that 23 is not "young." In the past, the rule of thumb was that the men generally could be expected to break through in their early 20s, while women on the tour generally broke though in their teens. But those were times where no one player dominated to the extent we've seen in the past 10-15 years. So these have not been "normal," in that the men's side has been dominated by the "big 3" and the women's side has been dominated by a once in a lifetime talent. So it is all relative in the current comparison. 23 years old is simply "young" relative to the big 3, who are all in their 30s and still dominating -- although for how much longer remains to be seen.

  94. @Dan88 The article is about the "youth movement," hitting the glass ceiling of the Old Guard triumvirate. There is no youth movement. There are 2 players - at 23 and 26 - who finally made it to a Grand Slam final other than OG contemporaries like Murray, Wawrinka, and Del Potro. FTR, Connors, McEnroe, Agassi all were in or won Grand Slam finals in their teens.

  95. @knitfrenzy I have basically agreed with you and would prefer not to split hairs. But 23 is still relatively "young" on the men's tour, and there are other players in the recent past who made it to the finals of a major in their early to mid-20s. Marin Cilic actually won the U.S. Open in 2014, at 25. Dominc Thiem made it to the French Open final in 2018 and 2019 when he was 24 and 25. Milos Raonic made it to the Wimbledon final in 2016 when he was 25. BTW, of the 3 examples you give, all of them reached their first major final in their 20s, not their teens: Connors appeared in his first major final at 21 (the 1974 Oz), McEnroe was 20 (1979 U.S. Open), and Agassi was 20 (1990 French). (I do not know who "FTR" is) So those examples and the vast majority on the men's side show that the norm is breakthroughs occur in the early 20s, if measured by appearances in major finals. In fact, the only player on the men's side that I am familiar with breaking through in his teens was Pete Sampras, at 19 (1990 U.S. Open).

  96. Really this match announced the arrival of Medvedev, IMHO. We already knew Rafa had what it took; what we didn't know was if Medvedev had the composure and stamina (both mental and physical) to bring his insane A-game to all 5 sets of a marathon match against one of the GOATs on one of the biggest stages (if not the biggest) in all of tennis. Now we know.

  97. While I’m grateful for this article, I also wish Mr. Clarey and the other members of the media didn’t pester Rafa with the GOAT race question moments after he won an arduous, grueling, almost 5-hour match. Come on! Can’t this question wait? Can’t you guys give him a break and let him savor the fruits of his hard labor? And why can’t you guys believe that being the GOAT, being the top dog are not his primary motivation for playing tennis? Do you have any concrete proof that Rafa is not being honest about his intentions? Rafa has always said he still plays tennis, has made comebacks from injury layoffs because he loves the sport. He always looks for ways to improve his game. He tries to compete in every match and give his best no matter what the outcome. All the titles, the No. 1 ranking, prizes and accolades he has won are byproducts of his and his team’s hard work. Maybe we should just appreciate and savor this historic, extended period of excellence in tennis and just wait for the careers of the Big 3 to end before we anoint the greatest of them all? Who knows what will happen next year, in the next Major? We’ll just have to wait and see as Rafa has repeatedly stated. Right now, I just want to celebrate Rafa’s stellar achievement, his underrated genius, unmatched grit and commitment, passion for tennis. He is the ultimate warrior/competitor and I will cheer my heart out for him until the day he hangs up his rackets, hopefully not in the near future.

  98. Well said! Please, let’s leave off the questions of GOAT and who will win the most Grand Slams. Those are, indeed, best answered and debated when the careers of these three superb players is over. Let’s live in the moment and enjoy this amazing run we have been privileged to witness.

  99. Nadal proved once again that is not only a terrific tennis player, but that he is also extremely mentally tough. This mental toughness is where most of his superiority over Federer lies. A prime example of Federer's weak mental toughness is his losing this year's Wimbledon final in spite of better stats than his opponent and two match points in the 5th set. There are plenty of other examples reflected in the lopsided Nadal vs. Federer head-to-head record (i.e., 24-16) Chances are that both Nadal and Djokovic will surpass Federer's number of Slams won; thus, making Federer the #3 player of his generation. Federer's fans may not like this fact, but that's the most realistic scenario.

  100. @Dan Botez Neither Nadal nor Djokovic will ever match, let alone surpass, Federer's all-court elegance and imaginative shot-making. Those qualities make him incomparable.

  101. @PJ Robertson I've always considered that Nadal's style and approach -- smashmouth, never-say-die, combined with loopy, uncomfortably high topspin shots -- was developed mostly with Fed in mind, in order to compete and challenge his style (which a good friend once described as "floating" around the court).

  102. @PJ Robertson Federer's elegance is matched only by his smugness. Nadal's play may not be as elegant as Federer, but his humble demeanor is yet another laudable quality that sets apart and above Federer. As for imaginative shot-making, Federer hasn't been able to extend his to clay courts. His only French Open won in the absence of Nadal, and his unimpressive clay Masters' record (i.e., won only 5 of 38 clay Masters entered) attest to his relative weakness on clay. You may claim that Fed's clay record is relatively poor because of Nadal's presence, but the fact remains that Nadal has the edge over Federer on outdoor hardcourt as well: 7-6.

  103. I’m really enjoying the comments being written here! I’m a tennis junkie and It’s a treat to hear what others are thinking. I’m a Federer fan, but Nadal won me over. He played exceptional tennis against Medvedev who himself was playing his best tennis ever. It was a match for the ages.

  104. Nicely written piece, and I appreciate in general all the Times’s coverage of the Open. The final was outstanding. I was there in person and had initially pouted that I would not see a Federer-Nadal final. But in the end, I definitely got my money’s worth. And I’ve gotta say - I love Rafa, but there is no one like Roger.

  105. @Qwerty Board Could not agree with you more. Roger is The Man.

  106. I am a Rafa fan but sometimes I wish the three would all end with 20 slams just to put an end to the Goat discussion. It's a pointless discussion really. Can't we just appreciate their greatness? I feel blessed that I get to see three true legends competing in the same era. They've given us so much!

  107. The GOAT consideration must always be contextual. Each of the current Big Three has liabilities in their records against the others, and none clearly stands out. And comparisons to Borg and Laver are very difficult to equalize, with significant differences in surfaces, rackets and availability of sophisticated medical treatment.

  108. The 2019 US Open has been an absolute thrill both in terms of the women's and the men's final. Rafa and Medvedev each elevated the game to a whole new level ; tennis fans everywhere were in awe of their raw ambition and their relentless energy. What a fitting finale! I hope with all the new male and female players coming up this year, we will have exciting battles for every season to come. #GoUSOpen

  109. Interesting to me was Nadal in the first game of the match was called for delay of game (and was broken), and again when serving for the championship (he double-faulted when left with one serve), yet both times, he pressed on. Head down, a grimace, and back to business. Compare to Serena last year. I'm big fans of both. But, Serena could stand to watch this match and learn.

  110. "It also preserved the Big Three’s logic-defying dominance. At the end of the 2009 season, the top three players in the rankings were Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. On Monday, the same three men are still on top, with Djokovic at No. 1, Nadal in hot pursuit and Federer a more distant No. 3." While this dominance by 3 players in the same era is historically unusual, to some extent it is not "logic-defying" but rather "logical." In professional tennis, success results in structural advantages, that lead to more success. The points and rankings pit you against weaker opponents in earlier rounds, for example. The money from winning at higher rounds means you can afford an entourage of coaches, physios, trainers and even cooks that help you and your game remain in tip-top shape. Major endorsements provide even more resources, which can be invested in more success. Etc. So the "Big-3" and the Big-3 era are certainly unique and talented, and there is no denying that. But it needs to be kept in mind that many of the "young guard" do not (yet) have the high-level resources and structural advantages that have assisted the the Big-3 over the past decade.