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No regrets: Medvedev lauds 'unreal' Nadal after epic

  • Dan Imhoff

Thoughts of what might have been will be stuck on repeat once the dust settles on Daniil Medvedev's most harrowing Grand Slam defeat in his second Australian Open final.

Beaten in a five-hour, 24-minute epic against Rafael Nadal, the 25-year-old was nothing but gracious towards his vanquisher.

There were times a contender could only tip their hat to greatness.

Medvedev made it clear this was one such moment.

"It was a huge match, for sure some small points, small details that I could have done better if I wanted to win. But that's tennis, that's life," the second seed said.

"(It) was a huge match. Rafa played unreal, raised his level. I mean, two sets to love up, I was like, 'C'mon, just go for him, go for more'.

"In (the) fifth set, I was like 'make him run'. He was unreal. He was really strong, like the way he played, at four hours I was even surprised. But, of course, we know how Rafa can play. He didn't play for six months. He told me after the match that he didn't practice so much. It was unreal."

Having already denied Novak Djokovic the calendar-year Grand Slam in last year's US Open final, the 25-year-old was two games from becoming the first man in the Open Era to have won his first two majors back-to-back. 

Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Ken Rosewall; these five Grand Slam heavyweights were the only men who had previously claimed the US and Australian Opens in succession.

They remained the only men's names on that list after Sunday night's 2-6 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4 7-5 result.

Nadal had narrowly held off the Muscovite in the Flushing Meadows final two-and-a-half years ago. Again, he prevailed with his back to the wall.

For most of the first three sets, Medvedev looked set for back-to-back major wins

"Talking about tennis, I have not much regrets," Medvedev said. 

"I'm going to try to continue my best. Yeah, I'm going to work even harder to try to be a champion of some of these great tournaments one day.

"But … I'm not really disappointed with the loss and with my tennis or with anything like this."

Medvedev was well on his way to denying Nadal his shot at tennis immortality when held a two-set lead and triple break point for a 4-2 lead in the third set.

Those missed opportunities would surely take some time to shake.

It was just the second player Nadal had managed to defeat in a five-set Grand Slam final after Roger Federer, and only the second time in 43 matches Medvedev had fallen from two sets up.

"I remember that all of (those) three returns I made it in. Just got a little bit tight," Medvedev said. 

"But, again, that's tennis. Should have done better. Should have hit a winner. Maybe would have won the match.

"Tactically nothing changed. I feel like I was playing right, but Rafa stepped up. The only thing, physically (I) was a little bit up and down, and yeah, he was I think stronger than me physically today."

Medvedev's circuitous road to the final took its toll the longer the match went

A 21st major trophy for the Spaniard scuttled Medvedev's bid to become the first champion since his compatriot Marat Safin in 2005 went all the way in Melbourne, having stared down a match point en route.

For the world No.2, that came when he staged a dramatic comeback of his own from two sets down against Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarterfinals.

"Next time I'm probably going to say when two sets to love down, 'Just do it like Rafa did against you'," Medvedev said.

"The way he managed to play throughout all these sets, even in the tough moments, for him it's for making the history. Even for sure he tries not to think about this, it must have been somewhere in his head.

"Yeah, huge respect for beating me because I tried my best. I really tried."