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U.S. Open: Rafael Nadal rode the path of destiny

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Rafael Nadal of Spain (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)

When the draws were released for the 2019 U.S. Open, Kenny Ijaola, Chairman of Nigerian Tennis Umpires Association, noted that the seedings favoured Nadal, unlike at Wimbledon where he was seeded third. In New York, however, Federer, as the second seed, was likely to reach a semi-final showdown with Djokovic.

As the tournament progressed, Nadal cruised through the first week. He defeated Australia’s John Millman in the first round match played on Wednesday, rested for a day and walked over Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis to reach the third round.

On Saturday, he capped the first week by dismissing South Korea’s Hyeon Chung in straight sets.

Meanwhile, Djokovic and Federer had their own peculiar experiences. Djokovic defeated Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baeno in the first round and had a stiffer challenge in overcoming Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Londero in the second round played on Thursday. He made it to the second week with straight sets victory over American Denis Kudla to reach the fourth round.

Federer had a different commencement. In the first round, he lost the opening set to India’s Sumil Nagal 4/6 before rallying to take the next three sets. In the second round, Bosnia’s Damir Dhumzur also took the first set 6/3 before Federer won the match in four sets. He breezed past Britain’s Dan Evans to make it to the second week.

The first shock waves happened on Monday of the second week. Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka won the first two sets 6/4; 7/5 and was leading 2/1 in the third when Djokovic threw in the towel, unable to continue because of an injury to his left shoulder.

Federer won his fourth round match, conceding only four games to dispatch Belgium’s battle-weary David Goffin. Then in the quarterfinals, the Swiss star was stunned by Hungary’s Grigor Dimitrov, 3/6; 6/4; 3/6; 6/4; 6/2.

By Tuesday of the second week, Nadal had a clear path to the finals, unless any of the contenders stopped him. Having no matches for two days, the Spaniard had a well rested body as he took on Croatia’s Marin Cilic to whom he dropped a set (for the very first time in the tournament) for a 6/3; 3/6; 6/1; 6/2 victory for which he amassed 110 total points to his opponent’s 86.

The thrilling match with Argentina’s diminutive Diego Schwartzman got him through to the last four. In the semi-finals, Nadal was close to dropping the first set that he won by a tiebreaker after which he rolled over Italian Matteo Berrettini.

In the title match, Nadal faced Russia’s Daniil Dimitrov, the hard fighting unflappable shot maker. The Russian giant had lost 6/2; 6/0 to Nadal in the Montreal finals and Nick Kyrgios in Washington but claimed the title in Cincinnati. In the final of the US Open, Nadal won the first two sets 7/6; 6/3. Medvedev would later say that, at that stage of the match, he was already thinking of what he would say as a runner up. However, a sudden change of fortune resulted in a five-set battle of four hours and 49 minutes.

At the 2019 US Open, many factors favoured Nadal. However, it was the complement of his stoic personal endowments that resulted in his victory and 19th career Grand Slam title.

Federer dropped the first set in his first two matches. Djokovic progressed stress-free until third round when Dimitrov defeated him on account of left shoulder injury. Nadal’s clear path was emerging.


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