Liguori: Young Stars Shine In US Open Finals Against Tennis Legends

Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu
Photo credit USA TODAY Images
By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York

Rafael Nadal, the Spanish bull, the relentless warrior, prevailed in an epic five-setter to win the men’s title and Bianca Andreescu, a newbie to the Grand Slam podium, pulled off a major upset to win the women’s title during a spectacular final weekend of U.S. Open tennis.

Words can’t describe the effort and perseverance that Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev displayed in their epic five-set marathon that lasted 4 hours and 51 minutes. Nadal prevailed 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 to win his 19th Grand Slam title and his 4th U.S. Open title.

It was as much a battle of will and fierce determination between the two gladiators pitting the 33-year-old legend, Nadal, appearing in his 5th U.S. Open final (his 27th Grand Slam final overall) against the 23-year-old Medvedev (playing in his very first Grand Slam final) as it was a battle of powerful, long baseline rallies, intense serving, returning, volleying, drop shots, strategy and maintaining composure for both players. Nadal, up 5-4 in the fifth, closed it out on his third Championship point after the Russian mounted an extraordinary comeback and showed incredible heart and determination.

“It has been an amazing final,” Nadal said after his monumental victory. “His (Medvedev) summer was one of the best in the sport since I started playing. The way that he was able to fight was just incredible. Tonight, everybody saw why he’s the No. 4 (ranked) player in the world already, even though he’s only 23-years-old. The way he was able to fight, to change the rhythm of the match was incredible.”

“It was one of the most emotional nights of all my career. The nerves were so high. It was a crazy match … the support has been amazing. It’s a pleasure and honor to play here.”

Medvedev first congratulated Rafael winning 19 Grand Slam titles. “That’s unbelievable, outrageous,” said Medvedev. “What you’ve done for tennis … it’s amazing for our sport!”

The talented Russian went on to thank the crowd who cheered loudly for him in support of his play and incredible effort. He made reference to how he antagonized the crowd earlier in the Championship which led to them booing him in earlier matches. “I know earlier in the tourney, I said something in a bad way and now I want to say it in a good way, it’s because of your energy that I’m here in the final,” Medvedev said. “In the 3rd set when I was thinking which speech I will give, because of you guys, I was fighting like hell. You guys can see I can change. I’m a human being. I can make mistakes. Thank you!”

Nadal, with 19 Major titles, moves just one title behind Roger Federer (20) and three ahead of Novak Djokovic (16).

On Saturday in the women’s final, Grand Slam final rookie Bianca Andreescu, the 15th seed from Canada, playing in her very first U.S Open main draw, remarkably found a way to stop the legendary Serena Williams from winning a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title. It was Serena’s fourth attempt at trying to tie the record since last winning a Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open.

But the 19-year-old Andreescu, who wasn’t even born when Serena won her first of six U.S. Open titles in 1999, more than impressed with a 6-3, 7-5 win over the biggest name in women’s tennis. Serena rallied back from being down 1-5 in the second set, but Andreescu shook off her nerves and closed it out for her first Major title. It should be the first of many for this fierce competitor.

The fact that Andreescu had never been further than the second round at a Grand Slam is unbelievable, as is the fact that twelve months ago Andreescu didn’t get past the first round in the U.S. Open qualifying tournament and was ranked below the top 200 in the world!

Yet, Andreescu came out slugging with intense focus, determination and confidence. She served better than Serena, getting 66% of her first serves in play compared to 44% of first serves in play for Williams. Serena served eight double-faults including one to drop the very first game of the match and one to lose the first set. Andreescu’s average service speed wasn’t that much slower. The teenager averaged 104 miles per hour on her first serve compared to Serena who averaged 107 miles per hour. Serena normally overpowers with her serve and groundstrokes but not in Saturday’s final. With Serena struggling with her serve and movement, the confident teen seized the moment and continued her undefeated record (8-0) against top 10 players this year.

“I believe I could have played better,” Serena said after her match on Saturday. “I believe I could have done more. I believe I could have just been more Serena today.” She said Andreescu “played really well and she deserves the championship,” but Serena later said “I honestly don’t think Serena showed up. I have to kind of figure out how to get her to show up in Grand Slam finals.”

The future looks bright in tennis as the young guns are more than challenging the old guard. And the teenagers and twenty-somethings are doing it with a mixture of confidence and dazzling tennis, all the while showing a tremendous amount of respect for the legends.

Congrats to Rafael Nadal, the warrior, and to Daniil Medvedev and Bianca Andreescu. They showed us incredible tennis, tremendous heart and determination.

Will Serena eventually win her 24th Grand Slam title? I believe she will if she doesn’t have to face Andreescu. Hopefully, she’ll come back from this disappointing loss stronger than ever and be as determined as ever and continue to try. With the younger talent continuing to impress and press the legends, the question will be how much longer will Serena and Roger Federer want to continue putting in the effort, both mentally and physically, to regain top form.