The big story of the 2019 US Open was undoubtedly that of Rafael Nadal outlasting Daniil Medvedev to win his 19th Grand Slam title and 4th at the US Open. However, there were other players too who shone under the spotlight at Flushing Meadows.
Lucky losers Paolo Lorenzi and Kamil Majchrzak survived a pair of five-setters en route to the third round. Pablo Andujar and Dominic Koepfer made their first foray to the second week of a Slam. Stan Wawrinka ended the title defence of Novak Djokovic in the fourth round, while Alexander Zverev won a pair of five-setters to reach his first fourth-round in New York.
Grigor Dimitrov overturned a 0-7 head-to-head record against Roger Federer to stun the five-time winner in the quarterfinals. Matteo Berrettini reached his first major semifinal while Medvedev continued his tear on North American hardcourts with a fourth straight tournament final, and first at a Major.
During the fortnight at the last Grand Slam tournament of the year, there were several memorable matches. The following 5 stand out the most:
#5 First Round: Paolo Lorenzi beats Zachary Svajda 3-6 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(4) 6-2
37-year-old Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi came out second-best in a marathon 3-hour 34-minute 4-6 7-5 6-7(2) defeat to Czech Jiří Veselý in a third-round qualification match for the US Open main draw. But while preparing to play an exhibition match with compatriot Matteo Berrettini, Lorenzi received the unexpected news of Kevin Anderson's withdrawal, which opened up a lucky loser spot for the Italian.
Up against the youngest player in the draw, in American 16-year-old wildcard Zachary Svajda playing his maiden Grand Slam main draw match, Lorenzi made a slow start and fell behind by two sets.
Never before in his career had Lorenzi recovered to win from a two-set-deficit. But the Italian calmly set about his comeback by taking the third set 6-4 and prevailing in a fourth-set tiebreak to force a decider.
Afflicted by cramps, Svajda struggled to remain competitive, as Lorenzi belied his years to breeze through the fifth set for the loss of just two games to register the first victory of his career from two sets down.
Lorenzi would go on to beat another youngster, Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic, in five sets in the next round, before his inspired run would come to an end against 2016 winner Stan Wawrinka in the third round.
#4 Third round: Daniil Medvedev beats Feliciano Lopez 7-6(1) 4-6 7-6(7) 6-4
In a late-night thriller under the New York lights, young Daniil Medvedev met Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez for the first time in a Grand Slam match. The pair's lone previous meeting on tour had gone the Spaniard's way in a first-round match at the 2017 Monte Carlo Masters.
It was Lopez's 10th third-round match at the US Open, compared to Medvedev's second.
The gulf in pedigree between the two players was apparent in the initial exchanges as Lopez rode an early break and served for the first set at 5-3. But Medvedev broke back and took the set in a tiebreak.
Stung by the loss of the first set which was on his racquet, Lopez responded by grabbing an early break in the second and breezing through the set in 38 minutes to restore parity.
The third set was a closer affair where both players firmly held serve. After seeing a set point of his own come and go in the ensuing tiebreak, a lunging volley from Lopez to save a set point brought the crowd to their feet. However, two points later it was Medvedev who took a two sets to one lead.
An immaculate baseline-to-baseline lob in the fifth game of the fourth set sealed a break for the Russian. He went on to beat the crowd favourite Lopez in a three-hour 19-minute tussle which drew to a close on the stroke of midnight.
Lopez's 85 net approaches (won 60) greatly entertained the New York faithful. On another day the Spaniard could have run out a straight-sets victor, but it was Medvedev who lived to fight another day.
#3 Third Round: Gael Monfils beats Denis Shapovalov 6-7(5) 7-6(4) 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3
Both men were no strangers to this stage of the US Open, with Monfils playing his seventh (5-1) and Shapovalov his third (1-1) third-round match.
In the pair's first meeting on tour, Shapovalov edged a tight first set on a tiebreak 7-6(5) and served for a two-set lead at 5-4. But Monfils interspersed blistering winners with off-pace shots to break back and level the match on a tiebreak.
The Frenchman rode on a single break in the third to take a two sets to one lead. Shapovalov looked down and out when he went down a double break to trail 1-4 in the fourth. But urged on by his new coach Mikhail Youzhny, the young Canadian threw caution to the wind and recouped one of the breaks back.
When Monfils failed to serve out the match at 5-4, Shapovalov's comeback was well and truly on. In the ensuing tiebreak, the Canadian took a 5-2 lead, only for Monfils to earn a match point by taking four points in a row.
With the match on the line, Shapovalov refused to back down, as a high-risk huge forehand brought high reward by erasing the match point. A point later, Monfils double-faulted to send the match to a fifth.
However, Monfils displayed incredible mental toughness and resilience by breaking Shapovalov for a 2-1 lead in the decider. A second match point would come and go but the Frenchman made good on his third opportunity to close out a hard-fought 6-7 7-6 6-4 6-7 6-3 win to move into his sixth fourth-round match in New York.
For the second straight year in a third-round match at Flushing Meadows (lost to Anderson in 2018), Shapovalov wondered what might have been as he went the distance only to come up short.
#2 Quarterfinals: Matteo Berrettini beats Gael Monfils 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 7-6(5)
Gael Monfils followed up his five-set third-round slugfest over Denis Shapovalov with a breezy fourth-round win over Spaniard Pablo Andujar to arrive in his fourth quarterfinal at the US Open, against first-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Matteo Berrettini.
Berrettini was slow off the blocks as Monfils went a set and a break up before the Italian responded with a break of the Frenchman's serve.
Another break of the Monfils serve for 5-3 enabled Berrettini to level the match at a set apiece. Spurred on by his upturn in fortune, the Rome native broke Monfils twice in the third set to move within a set of his maiden Slam semifinal.
But Monfils was not done yet. The French veteran converted his fifth break point opportunity in the fourth game of the set and the lone break would suffice as Monfils restored parity at two sets all.
Monfils' challenge seemed to have wilted in the decider when Berrettini surged to a 5-2 lead. But when a nervy Berrettini double-faulted on match point at 5-3 40-30, Monfils brought his big-match experience to the fore and got back on serve.
Berrettini saw two more match points come and go in the next game on the Frenchman's serve as Monfils forced a deciding set tiebreak.
To his credit, the Italian carved out a further pair of match points at 6-4 in the tiebreak. Although Monfils saved the first, Berrettini came good at the fifth time of asking to move into his first Grand Slam semifinal.
In the process, Berrettini emulated his compatriot Corrado Barazzutti to become the first Italian player in 42 years to reach the last four in New York.
On the day, Berrettini enjoyed great success by walloping winners, carving out angles and displaying impressive tactical nous by employing his sliced backhand to set up his more potent forehand, as an exhausted Monfils ran out of steam.
#1 Final: Rafael Nadal beats Daniil Medvedev 7-5 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-4
In his only previous meeting with Medvedev in the Montreal Masters final earlier in the season, Nadal conceded only three games en route to the title. But any inkling of another 'comfortable' outing in New York quickly dispelled into thin air when Medvedev broke Nadal for a 2-1 lead after squandering a break point in the Spaniard's opening game of the match.
The young Russian, however, failed to consolidate the break and Nadal broke back for two games all. Medvedev saved three break points and won a cat-and-mouse exchange at the net to hold serve for 4-4.
Nadal's pressure remained unrelenting though, as Medvedev yielded his serve in the 12th game to concede the opening set.
The Russian dug himself out of a 0-40 hole in the fourth game of the second set to hold serve but Nadal came good on his fifth break point of the set to take a 4-2 lead en route to a commanding two-set lead.
In 138 previous editions of the tournament, Pancho Gonzalez was the last of five players to win the US Open final from two sets down when he beat Ted Schroeder 16-18, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in the 1949 title match.
Nadal moved to within three holds of a straight-sets win when he broke Medvedev for a 3-2 lead in the third. Medvedev admitted later to thinking about his speech in the post-match presentation at that juncture. But he promptly regathered his thoughts to break back in the next game.
The Russian held for a 6-5 lead and fired a blistering forehand winner to set up three consecutive set points. Nadal saved the first with a serve-and-volley but was powerless to save the second as Medvedev ensured the US Open final would go at least four sets.
In a competitive fourth set, Medvedev earned a set point when Nadal's forehand misfired at 4-5. The Russian gleefully accepted the opportunity with a brilliant backhand return winner past a bemused Nadal.
For the first time in 10 years, the Flushing Meadows final went the distance as Medvedev became the first player after Federer (2008 Wimbledon) to recover from a two-set deficit against Nadal in a Major final and force a fifth set.
Medvedev rode his momentum to hold serve in the opening game of the fifth but rued squandering three break points in the next game, one of them on a Nadal second serve, as the Spaniard held serve and broke for a 3-2 lead. Nadal promptly consolidated the break for a 4-2 lead and broke Medvedev for a second time in the set to take a 5-2 lead.
The final had more twists in store though, as Medvedev broke back for 3-5 and saved two championship points to hold for 4-5. Serving for the championship for the second time, Nadal conceded the first point of the game and narrowly avoided falling behind 0-30 as Medvedev hesitated to go for a volley at the net.
Nadal survived a break point in the game but soon collapsed to the ground in ecstasy following a Medvedev error, as the Spaniard sealed a fourth triumph at the US Open for his 19th Grand Slam title.
In the process, Nadal improved to 3-3 in five-set Grand Slam finals and Medvedev narrowly failed in his bid to become the 55th different player, and third Russian, to hoist aloft a Grand Slam trophy in the Open Era.