Nadal books US Open final date with Russian upstart
HE'S brought attitude and his A game to New York and now Russian upstart Daniil Medvedev has been rewarded with the chance to break the big three's decade-long domination of the grand slams.
Medvedev will carry the torch for the sport's next generation of stars when he takes on the great Rafael Nadal in a US Open final that could, at last, signal a changing of the guard in men's tennis.
Nadal is gunning for a fourth title at Flushing Meadows - and 19th grand slam crown overall to edge him to within one of Roger Federer's record tally.
Such has been the stranglehold of Nadal, Federer and Novak Djokovic at the majors that 23-year-old Medvedev will be hoping to join Dominic Thiem as only the second active player in his 20s to win even a set in a grand slam final.
But it's a challenge Medvedev is ready for.
"When I was going to USA, I didn't know it was going to be that good," the world No.5 said after ousting Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 6-3 to join legends Andre Agassi and Ivan Lendl as only the third man in 50 years to reach finals in Washington, Montreal, Cincinnati and New York in a single hardcourt season.
"I've done amazing things. Of course, deep inside of me, I understand that what I've done these four weeks is amazing, even comparing to what I've done before.
"Also one more thing: I don't want to stop."
The Russian has revelled in his role as crowd villain during his charge to the title match (Monday, 6am AEST), giving spectators the bird and then thanking them for driving him through a tough first week.
But he won't be the fan favourite against Nadal, nor will his 12-match winning streak - and 20 victories from 22 outings during the American summer - count for much against the mighty Spaniard.
Nadal buried Medvedev 6-3 6-0 in Montreal last month, in the pair's only previous meeting.
Medvedev knows he must take his game to supreme new levels to conquer the second seed.
"Talking about Rafa, it's tough to find words," he said.
"So many players and so many people found them before me. He's one of the greatest champions in the history of our sport. He's just a machine, a beast on the court. The energy he's showing is just amazing.
"To play him in your first grand slam final should be, I want to say, a funny thing. It's not going to be a funny thing, but it's going to be an amazing thing to live."
Nadal (12), Federer (5) and Djokovic (15) have gobbled up 32 of the 39 slams this decade - and threaten to complete a clean sweep between them for a third straight year.
But fittingly, the final match of the grand slam season pits the most prolific match winners of 2019 - Medvedev (50) and Nadal (46).
"I am super happy to be back in the final of the US Open," Nadal said after fighting off two set points in the first set of his 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 6-1 semi-final triumph over Italian surprise packet Matteo Berrettini.
"Daniil is one of the most solid players and making steps forward every week. I must play at my very best."