Feeling like 2017 again? or 2010? or 2013?
First, Daniil Medvedev has done something many tennis fans have been waiting on from younger players. He has reached 4-consecutive finals. He picked up 300 ranking points in Washington, DC, 600 in Montreal, 1000 in Cincinnati, and is going to take home either 1200 or 2000 from the US Open. A player making a run at the top tier must string together good results. Daniil Medvedev has done that.
Second, his 6-3, 6-0 loss to Rafael Nadal at Montreal may not be terribly relevant. It was Medvedev’s 10th match between July 30th and August 11th in two different cities. Medvedev did play and win another 5 matches in Cincinnati the following week, but he has had a week off between Cincinnati and the US Open plus at least 1 day off between his matches at the US Open. I don’t think he will be as leg-weary as he was in Montreal.
Third, Medvedev is tall and can play big man tennis and is capable of throwing in interesting off-pace shots as well. Both of these things can deny Nadal the rhythm he prefers in points and in matches.
Does this add up to an upset?
Probably not. To be sure, Medvedev can win this match. With no disrespect meant for Kevin Anderson, Medvedev is not a super long-shot vs. anyone based on recent form. Still, Nadal’s athleticism, mental fortitude, oppressive topspin, ability to improvise, and tactical approach will all likely lead to a 4th US Open crown.
Nadal’s last really surprising loss in a major final was likely either the 2014 Australian Open final vs. Stan Wawrinka or his 2017 Australian Open loss to Roger Federer (depending on how you viewed their head-to-head record in that match). Wawrinka’s power can overwhelm anyone. Federer’s renaissance vs. Nadal has come from a willingness to hug the baseline and not engage in long rallies with Rafa.
If Medvedev is to win, he will need to serve BIG. He also will need to use his feel for the game to stay closer to the baseline. The biggest thing Nadal does to open the door for his opponents is to surrender so much court positioning especially when returning. Nadal’s speed and will make up for some of this real estate, but it is an area to attack for a hopeful opponent. Beyond that, Medvedev will have to bring his best mental game to the court. Nadal is a fierce competitor. As a friend pointed out, Nadal amped his game up after splitting two tough sets vs. Marin Cilic. Medvedev should have a ton of confidence after reaching 4-consecutive tournament finals and winning Masters Cincinnati as well as 6 matches at the US Open. That confidence will be needed to weather the storm.
My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Daniil Medvedev 7-6, 7-6, 6-2 Medvedev has demonstrated that he has a bright and perhaps huge future in tennis, but right now beating Nadal seems like a bridge too far for the young Russian.