Jack Nicklaus had his life mapped out by the end of 1959.

Proposing to his girlfriend, nursing student and fellow Ohio State undergraduate Barbara Bash, over Christmas, the 19-year-old Nicklaus saw a clear vision of the future.

He would be, if all went to plan, a mighty fine golfer but an even better insurance salesman.

The teenage years had treated Nicklaus well. He acquired the golfing fundamentals under Jack Grout's instruction at Scioto Country Club and became a serial amateur champion, all while demonstrating diligence in his studies and a precocious talent for earning big bucks.

The idea was that he and Barbara would settle down, live a life of contentment together and want for nothing, and Jack would always have his golf. The American dream.

Never mind winning a record 18 majors; merely playing in that many was still fanciful.

Nicklaus, who turns 80 this week, was a college kid with a winning golf game, a head for figures and an effortless, neighbourly charm. Some combination.

Today he is one of the greatest and wealthiest sports stars in history.

This is the story of the 1960 U.S. Open, and how a day in Ben Hogan's company changed young Jack's life.

 

INSURANCE THE BEST POLICY?

Already the U.S. Amateur champion at the dawn of the sixties, Nicklaus realised he had a serious talent that could worry the best professionals, but was there sufficient financial incentive to go into golf full-time?

He was not so sure. Insurance paid well, and a new decade promised new money-making opportunities.

"I had probably three jobs that I was working at the same time," Nicklaus recalled.

"I was working for Ohio State Life Insurance Company, I was working for Parker and Co, which is a brokerage firm out of New York, and I was actually working for a slack company. As I travelled I did some slack promotion, well within amateur regulations.

"I was making close to about $30,000 a year. That's pretty good for a 20‑year‑old. Pretty darned good back in 1960. And I thought about playing the Tour, [but] you had to be probably in the top five to be making $30,000 a year."

Nicklaus had played on a winning Walker Cup team at Muirfield and was voted the world's leading amateur by Golf Digest magazine before turning 20. 

THE WEEK WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED

Nicklaus' golf life was transformed at the 1960 U.S. Open, specifically on the Saturday, the closing day of the tournament, when the youngster, still devoted to the unpaid ranks, was paired with the great Ben Hogan for the final 36 holes.

Over back-to-back circuits of the Cherry Hills course, set within a luxury country club in Denver's suburbs, Nicklaus later admitted: "I learned how to play golf."

Dad Charlie broke the news to young Jack that he would be playing alongside the 47-year-old Hogan, a nine-time major champion.

"It's in my personal scrapbook when my dad came in and said, 'Guess who you're playing the last two rounds with'," Nicklaus said.

"He says, 'Hogan'. It was like, you know, I'm going to get a chance to play with Ben Hogan."

Wherever Nicklaus goes today, there is a clamour for stories about his early days.

Put him in a media room and a half hour of wisdom and delicious anecdotes will spill out. Pure manna for golf reporters.

The 1960 U.S. Open has been raked over as often as the Cherry Hills bunkers. Nicklaus does not seem to mind. He knows its relevance, enjoys the reverance.

A COLLISION OF GREATS - PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

Nicklaus, Hogan and Masters champion Arnold Palmer were firmly in the U.S. Open title mix that year, a coming together of generations old and new, with Palmer surging into title contention after a surge of six birdies in his first seven holes of that final round. Palmer had ominously driven the green at the par-four first.

Nicklaus, despite his amateur status, nevertheless led as he reached the turn.

Put succinctly, Nicklaus' putter went stone cold and he fluffed that chance of glory, while playing partner Hogan blew up on the 35th and 36th holes of the day, a bogey and a triple from the veteran handing victory to Palmer, whose six-under-par 65 took him from seven shots back at the start of the round to first place, four under for the tournament.

While Nicklaus placed second, Hogan trailed home tied for ninth, cursing his costly drive into water at the last. Nicklaus, however, was tracking his playing partner's every shot.

"The first time he missed a green was the 35th hole we played," Nicklaus said. "He hit the ball in the fairway, he managed his game. He played little hooks, little slices, little short slots and he played conservative shots. And he made some putts and missed a lot putts. Hogan stood over a putt for about an hour in those days.

"They talk about all the putts he missed but he holed a ton of putts. He was my kind of guy to play with. We walked down the fairway; pleasantries. When you hit a good shot, if he said it was a good shot, you knew darned well it was a good shot.

"And if you didn't hit a good shot, you weren't expecting to hear anything, which you didn't."

"IF HE HAD A BRAIN IN HIS HEAD..."

Nicklaus has often quibbled with a quote attributed to Hogan from Cherry Hills, with Hogan said to have told US sports writer Dan Jenkins: "I played with a kid today who would have won by 10 strokes if he knew what he was doing."

A conversation with Jenkins, who died last year, set the record straight for Nicklaus - if not entirely favourably for golf's future 'Golden Bear'.

According to Nicklaus, Jenkins revealed how Hogan actually said he partnered a player "who if he had a brain in his head, would have won by 10 strokes".

Nicklaus offers a similarly self-flagellating take of what happened over those closing holes, as the winning line came into view.

"I blew it," he said. "I had the tournament reasonably well in hand if I had known how to play.

"I remember walking off the 12th green. I looked at the leaderboard, and there was one 5 on the board [indicating a score of five under par] and that was me.

"I three-putted 13, 14. And after I look at the leaderboard, 'Nice going, Jack'. Then I miss a three-footer at 16, and about an eight-footer at 17 and bogey 18 to lose that golf tournament. That's a pretty poor finish. You learn from that."

Nicklaus conceded he "didn't know how to win at 20 years old, not against the guys". That changed soon enough.

"THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME"

Marrying Barbara a month after his Cherry Hills exploits, Nicklaus remained in the amateur ranks, making his money in the 'real world'.

Eventually, having landed his second U.S. Amateur title, he turned professional in November 1961.

"I decided I really didn't care about being the best insurance salesman," Nicklaus said. "I really wanted to be a guy who could be the best at playing golf.

"And the only way to do that is to play against the best. And so that was why I turned pro."

There was no standing on ceremony either once that status was acquired.

His maiden major triumph came when Oakmont hosted the U.S. Open in 1962, beating Palmer in a play-off. The Masters and US PGA titles followed in 1963, and by 1964, Nicklaus was the leading money-winner on the PGA Tour, trouncing what he might have earned with a sharp suit, fedora and briefcase.

Nicklaus will be forever associated with Cherry Hills, and the tournament where he "proceeded to fall apart like a three-dollar suitcase".

Now that he has turned 80, with Hogan long gone and Palmer having passed on to life's 19th hole more than three years ago, it falls to Nicklaus to recount the stories of yesteryear.

All being even, he has not told his last tale of Cherry Hills. This story is assembled from hour after hour of Nicklaus reminiscing with golf's press pack.

"I look back on it, and I say, you know, I would have loved to have won that tournament," Nicklaus said. "But maybe the best thing that ever happened to me was the learning experience that I had from it.

"Did it destroy my life? No. I learned from it. I put what I learned there to use. Did I do it again? Sure. But did I do it to the same degree? No."

THROW A RIGHT ONCE YOU CAN SMELL MONEY

Leaving Denver today on Interstate 25 - the Valley Highway - you can leave the five-lane carriageway by Veterans Park and begin the South University Boulevard approach to Cherry Hills Country Club.

An urban, gridded landscape - studentville around the University of Denver, block after block of modern apartments, a Wendy's burger joint - gives way after a couple of miles to a greener, tree-lined avenue, and a sprawl of gated communities, a millionaire's paradise.

Peyton Manning reputedly calls this home. David Duval has lived in a mansion practically overlooking the course.

Once you can positively smell money, throwing a right turn at a barely conspicuous but traffic-lighted junction reveals the country club, its mock-tudor clubhouse soon coming into view.

Behind that members' sanctuary, its eight tennis courts and a huge swimming pool, lies a golf course steeped in history.

This is not the course that Jack built - even though today there are over 400 Nicklaus-designed courses across the world.

But it is where the Nicklaus legend was born, perhaps the key stepping stone towards insurance's temporary claim becoming golf's greatest fixed asset.

As bushfires continue to rage in Australia, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and three grand slams have pledged a combined $400,000 (579,542 Australian dollars) to the relief effort.

The fires have ravaged large swathes of land, killing at least 28 people and millions of animals in the country where the first slam of the year begins next week.

Various fundraising initiatives have been launched and now the ITF has joined with Wimbledon, the US Open and the French Open to boost the cash total.

"The worldwide tennis community has come together in support of all those affected by the bushfires across many parts of Australia," said ITF president David Haggerty.

"This donation will support the Red Cross teams who are working hard on the ground providing essential emergency assistance including relief centres, aid and practical support for victims, evacuated families and those who have lost their homes.

"We would like to commend all members of the tennis community who are currently raising funds and awareness."

Among the other activities taking place is the AO Rally for Relief at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday January 15, which will see Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Roger Federer take part.

It was a decade dominated by the 'Big Three' and they delivered on multiple occasions on the biggest stages.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic dominated the decade in men's tennis, winning 33 of the 40 grand slams on offer.

Djokovic claimed 15 of those, while Nadal (13) and Federer (five) built on what they had started in the early-to-mid 2000s.

And, when they matched up in deciders, the trio of greats produced some epic finals.

The women's decade was far more varied despite Serena Williams' dominance – the American winning 12 majors since 2010 – as they too delivered some enthralling deciders.

We take a look at some of the best major finals of the decade.

 

2012 Australian Open: Novak Djokovic bt. Rafael Nadal 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5

In arguably the most gruelling grand slam final ever, Djokovic outlasted Nadal in a five-set thriller in Melbourne.

The all-time greats produced an epic battle that lasted five hours and 53 minutes – the longest slam final in history.

Nadal needed a comeback in the fourth-set tie-break just to stay alive in the decider, famously dropping to his knee in celebration after getting to a fifth.

But the Spaniard would cough up a break lead in the final set as Djokovic claimed an incredible win for his fifth grand slam crown.

2014 Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic bt. Roger Federer 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 5-7 6-4

A Federer-Djokovic final at the All England Club always delivers.

This one looked set to be a little more straightforward as Djokovic led two-sets-to-one and held a 5-2 advantage in the fourth.

However, Federer reeled off five straight games to force a decider.

Both players had their chances in the fifth set but Djokovic took his to clinch the title.

Federer finished with 75 winners and 29 unforced errors, while Djokovic had 68 and 27 respectively in a match he described as the "best quality grand slam final" he had played in.

 

2017 Australian Open: Roger Federer bt. Rafael Nadal 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3

This was quite the occasion as two of the best ever went head to head in a grand slam final for the first time since 2011.

Its importance was also highlighted by the fact Federer held 17 majors to Nadal's 14 heading into the match, and can be understood even more greatly at the end of 2019 now that the pair are on 20 and 19 respectively.

As expected, the pair produced in front of an adoring Melbourne crowd.

After a to-and-fro battle to begin the final, Federer came from 3-1 down in the deciding set, having taken a medical time-out after the fourth.

2017 French Open: Jelena Ostapenko bt. Simona Halep 4-6 6-4 6-3

A stunning run at Roland Garros was completed in fine fashion – with an incredible comeback.

The unseeded Ostapenko may have accepted her run to the final was an achievement enough after the Latvian fell a set and 3-0 down to the tournament favourite.

Ostapenko may have levelled the match, but she then found herself 3-1 behind in the decider.

But, she produced another response, her first WTA Tour title coming at the French Open.

 

2019 Australian Open: Naomi Osaka bt. Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4

Ostapenko may have delivered a huge comeback, but Osaka's ability to keep her cool against Kvitova at Melbourne Park earlier this year was even more impressive.

The Japanese star's maiden major win had been overshadowed by Williams' outburst at Flushing Meadows just months earlier and it seemed a potential second major title had been thrown away.

Osaka took the first set and led 5-3 with three championship points in the second, only to somehow drop the set altogether.

That would be enough to break even the greatest, let alone a 21-year-old on one of the sport's grandest stages.

Instead, Osaka composed herself, closing out an amazing victory for her second major title.

2019 Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic bt. Roger Federer 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 13-12 (7-3)

A history-making decider lasted just under five hours and, once again, Federer was left to rue a missed chance against Djokovic at the All England Club.

Djokovic saved two championship points in the fifth set as the two greats went to a final-set tie-break – the first in singles at Wimbledon. 

The Serbian edged it to win a 16th grand slam title, as not even 94 winners from the Swiss superstar were enough

Federer won 14 more points, hit 40 more winners and created 13 break points to eight, but was beaten.

Rory McIlroy is determined to carry his regular tour form into the majors in 2020 - and he knows a fast start is the missing component that has held him back.

The 30-year-old Northern Irishman remains stuck on four major victories, having not won one of golf's four biggest tournaments since his 2014 US PGA Championship success.

He enjoyed a stellar 2019 though, carrying off four titles including the Tour Championship in August, when he pocketed prize money of $15million as the FedEx Cup winner.

That triumph at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta flushed McIlroy with confidence, and it was little surprise he carried off the WGC-HSBC Champions trophy in Shanghai in November.

The regrets from his year are obvious, with McIlroy not seriously contending at the business end of any of the majors, despite grinding out top-10 finishes at the US PGA and the U.S. Open.

At the Open Championship, held at Royal Portrush, McIlroy had a nightmarish opening 79 and a sparkling 65 on the Friday could not stop him missing the cut in front of his home supporters.

"The majors weren't what I wanted, but I played a lot of good golf and I think I played some good golf within the major championships as well," McIlroy told Sky Sports News. "I shot a few good scores. I just need to start a little faster, that's the big thing for me.

"If there's a key to me starting to contend more regularly and win majors again, I just need to start a little better."

It sounds obvious and is, and the more McIlroy puts himself immediately in the frame to win at regular tour events, the more starting at least solidly should become second nature.

He is moving in a positive direction, with the world number two putting pressure on Brooks Koepka at the top of the rankings.

It was fending off playing partner Koepka's challenge on the final day of the Tour Championship that put a spring in McIlroy's step and has convinced him he can land more of the big pots.

"I'd say the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup meant the most because it was Brooks in the final group and it meant a little more to me just because he is still ranked the number one player in the world," McIlroy said.

"There were a lot of tournaments I had chances in before the Players, even though it was still early in the year, and I felt there were questions about: Can Rory get it done? Can he close? Can he finish?

"That was huge to me. It proved to myself and it proved to other people that I can get it done on a Sunday when it matters at one of the biggest tournaments in the world."

Tennis twins Mike and Bob Bryan – the most successful doubles pair of all time – are to bring their careers to an end following the 2020 US Open.

The identical twin brothers from California have won 118 career doubles titles as a team, including 16 grand slams as well as an Olympic gold medal.

However, their last slam success came at the 2014 US Open, with the duo having won 18 trophies since then.

They will turn 42 in April and – having slipped down the doubles rankings to 27th – have decided to call time on their playing careers at Flushing Meadows, where they have won five titles, next year. 

"We took the last few months off to try and get our minds right and get our bodies and minds fresh and make this decision," Mike Bryan told USOpen.org.

"We feel it's the right time. It's just a perfect time to go. We feel like we can still be competitive and win, but at 42, we're really appreciative of getting so much longevity out of our careers.

"We feel like you can't play forever, so we just wanted to make the decision and go into next year knowing that we can see the finish line and play as hard as we can, but also appreciate being on tour, playing together and giving back to the fans a little bit."

The brothers – who have spent 438 weeks at the top of the world rankings – were the dominant force in doubles tennis from the early 2000s up until 2015, with their grasp having loosened in recent years.

Naomi Osaka has split from coach Jermaine Jenkins following her unsuccessful US Open defence.

Jenkins and Osaka teamed up in February after the Japanese parted ways with Sascha Bajin in the wake of her Australian Open success.

The two-time major champion has not won another title since her triumph at Melbourne Park and a fourth-round loss to Belinda Bencic at the US Open represented her next best performance at a grand slam this year.

"I'm super grateful for the time we spent together and the things I learned on and off court but I feel like now is a[n] appropriate time for a change," Osaka wrote on Twitter.

"[I] appreciate you, forever warmed by you … thank you for everything, it was a blast."

The 21-year-old Osaka will return to action at the Pan Pacific Open in Osaka next week.

On September 11 1999, a rising star of tennis clinched her first grand slam title and, 20 years later, Serena Williams is still going strong.

Williams, aged 17, beat Martina Hingis 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in the US Open final at Flushing Meadows to make a major breakthrough.

Two decades and 23 grand slam titles have passed since then, yet Williams - one triumph shy of equalling Margaret Court's overall major record hall - is still at the pinnacle of the sport.

The American reached her second slam final of 2019 at Flushing Meadows last week, though it ended in defeat to new kid on the block Bianca Andreescu, who also beat Williams in the Rogers Cup final in August – albeit with her opponent retiring at 3-1 down.

It means Williams has lost her last four appearances in grand slam finals since winning the Australian Open in January 2017, but her ever enduring talent means a record-equalling success should never be discounted.

Here are some of the astonishing numbers of Williams' career to date.

72 - Williams has won 72 WTA singles titles so far. Her first was in Paris in 1999, with her most recent coming in Melbourne in 2017.

33 - The 37-year-old has reached an incredible 33 grand slam singles finals, losing just 10 of those.

5 - Williams has finished the year ranked as world number one five times, in 2002, 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

39 - Including 14 in doubles and two in mixed doubles, Williams has won 39 major titles - that is a joint-third total since the Open Era began.

1 - Williams is the only player, male or female, to have completed a Golden Slam in both singles and doubles competitions. As well as triumphing at every slam and the Olympics as a singles competitor, Serena has achieved the same feat alongside sister Venus in doubles.

7 - Williams has seven titles at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, with six more at the US Open, and three at Roland Garros.

319 - Having spent 319 weeks as world number one, Williams is third behind Martina Navratilova (332) and Steffi Graf (377).

2 - She has held all four grand slam trophies on two occasions - in 2002-03 and 2014-15.

97 - In total, Williams has appeared in 97 singles finals on the WTA circuit.

186 - Williams spent 186 weeks as world number one between February 2013 and September 2016, equal with Graf's record from August 1987 to March 1991.

Martina Navratilova believes Serena Williams will have to find her brilliant best to win another grand slam after yet more disappointment in a major final at the US Open.

The painful 6-3 7-5 defeat to Canadian Bianca Andreescu in Saturday's title match at Flushing Meadows means Williams, unquestionably the player of her generation, remains one slam title behind Margaret Court at the top of the all-time list.

Williams has lost major four finals in the last 14 months and her last grand slam singles triumph came at the 2017 Australian Open.

It will be to Melbourne she returns for the next drive to land that 24th slam, and the American, though still a major force, will have turned 38 by the time she arrives in Australia in January.

Navratilova was 37 when she played her last grand slam singles final, losing to Conchita Martinez at Wimbledon in 1994, and she retired later that year, returning for a brief singles dalliance in 2000 and a more sustained involvement in doubles well into her forties.

She said the pressure that Williams faced in New York was of the kind that "only happens to legends and is impossible to quantify".

"I still think Serena can get to 24 majors," Navratilova told the WTA website.

"Especially as the court surface at the Australian Open suits her better as it's faster than the US Open.

"But, after losing four in a row, every major final is now going to be harder for Serena. For one thing, there are going to be more players who think they can beat her.

"And also the scar tissue and the pressure will only grow. Just 'Average Serena' is not going to cut it in Melbourne in January; she will have to bring her best."

Navratilova was hugely impressed by 19-year-old Andreescu who had the courage to hit Williams off court, only showing the slightest sign of nerves when her opponent launched a second-set fightback from the brink of defeat.

The bravado of the first-time champion struck a chord with Navratilova, who said: "It was as if Andreescu knew that there was nothing she could do about the crowd being so vocal in their support for Serena.

"She didn’t take it personally, though it must have been hard, really hard."

And with Andreescu among a host of young players who look set to give the women's game a bright future, Navratilova sees the landscape changing - albeit with one fact still incontrovertible.

"If Serena plays her best tennis, she's still better than everybody else out there," said the nine-time Wimbledon singles champion. "Unfortunately for Serena, she didn't do that in New York."

Serena Williams lost the US Open final to Bianca Andreescu on Saturday, her fourth final in the last two years without a win. A win would make Williams the most winningest woman in the Open era of Grand Slams, surpassing Margaret Court's 23 titles. But her latest loss brings into question whether or not she still has what it takes to win a major. The Zone Blitz team answers the question.

Bianca Andreescu insists she is "not done yet" after spending years visualising the moment she would win the US Open, even writing herself fake winners' cheques.

The 19-year-old became Canada's first singles grand slam champion when she upset home favourite and Flushing Meadows great Serena Williams in Saturday's final, winning in straight sets to continue a remarkable ascent.

Andreescu won at Indian Wells and in the Rogers Cup, too, and reached a career-high number five in the WTA rankings on Monday following her New York success.

A long career at the top appears inevitable, with Andreescu still unbeaten against top-10 opponents, and she acknowledges there is now a desire to build on the US Open victory.

"I never thought it would be this hectic, but I'm not complaining," she told Good Morning America. "This is truly an amazing accomplishment but I could definitely get used to this feeling. I'm not done yet."

Williams had been bidding to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 major titles, but Andreescu's aim to triumph at Flushing Meadows was similarly long-standing.

She revealed one of her techniques had been to spend years picturing herself triumphing, determined to turn her wishes into reality.

"I've been visualising ever since I was 12 or 13 when my amazing mother introduced me to it," she said. "I find it very helpful.

"I think it's one of the most powerful tools we have, our minds. I believe that we create our reality with our minds. Ever since then, I've been picturing myself holding that trophy.

"I actually wrote myself a cheque for this tournament - back in 2015, it wasn't that much money [$3.85million in prize money] but, every year, I kept increasing it. For it to actually become a reality is just crazy."

Andreescu insists she was not interested in earning huge amounts for herself, though, instead determined to secure enough in prize money to allow her parents to travel with her on the WTA Tour.

"It definitely wasn't an easy road. I sacrificed a lot, my parents sacrificed a lot," she added.

"Just being with them to celebrate that moment was very special to me. I know they can't always travel. But I guess now they can."

As first Novak Djokovic and then Roger Federer exited the US Open, leaving the draw wide open for Rafael Nadal, there was legitimate cause for concern the men's singles final would be what it was for the previous two years: a forgettable, one-sided encounter far from befitting of the occasion.

Nadal and Djokovic ran roughshod over Kevin Anderson and Juan Martin del Potro in 2017 and 2018 respectively, with neither able to provide enough of a test to produce a spectacle worthy of being retained in the memory for too long.

To watch Nadal, Djokovic and Federer overwhelm an opponent is a sight to behold. The sporting soliloquies they frequently deliver against those outside their ceaselessly dominant trident are regularly compelling simply for the mastery they display when brushing aside inferior foes.

However, grand slam finals are not the stage for such one-man shows. In this arena more than any other, two protagonists are needed for the headline act to live up to the billing.

On Sunday, Nadal was lucky enough to share the Arthur Ashe court with the tournament's chief protagonist, and he and Daniil Medvedev combined to produce a four-hour-and-49-minute drama that nobody who was lucky enough to have a seat in the stadium will forget in a hurry.

It seemed extremely unlikely that Medvedev - the man who became the leading storyline of an often drab men's tournament after aiming a middle-finger gesture towards the crowd in a third-round clash with Feliciano Lopez - would be able to provide the thrilling final-day flourish those packed inside the world's largest tennis stadium witnessed when Nadal took control of his 27th major final.

Medvedev himself conceded he was thinking about giving a speech after Nadal broke in the third set to take a 3-2 lead. However, he has consistently proven capable of finding inspiration from unexpected sources and at unexpected times.

He masterfully used the jeers of spectators to his advantage against Lopez and in the fourth round with Dominik Koepfer, goading the fans after matches while focusing on transforming their negative energy into a positive.

In his quarter-final with Stan Wawrinka he superbly switched his tactics to exhaust the Swiss by getting him on the run with drop shots and lobs, finding a way to survive and advance having been in a dire situation as a thigh injury left him believing retirement or defeat was inevitable.

Medvedev felt the latter was a formality as Nadal moved through the gears in the final, but once again he discovered life when it looked least likely to arrive.

"I was like, 'Okay, okay, just fight for every point, don't think about these things.' It worked out not bad," said the Russian.

It worked out significantly better than not bad. Medvedev's desire, excellent movement on the baseline and ability to put so many balls back in play led to uncharacteristic errors from Nadal that saw him surrender the initiative, setting in motion a recovery nobody foresaw but one suddenly everybody except those in the Nadal camp desperately wanted.

A dramatic twist worthy of Broadway turned everything on its head, including the crowd, who shockingly swayed to the man they once loathed as they chanted Medvedev's name, making clear their desire to see the match extended into a fourth set.

Medvedev obliged and, with renewed belief, ploughed on in search of one of the greatest comebacks in grand slam history, which looked a very real possibility when he met a 107mph Nadal serve out wide with a perfectly placed two-handed backhand winner to force a decider.

His extraordinary revival made for an astonishing spectacle as it led to a gripping, undulating conclusion in which crowd support swung one way and then the other as both players somehow summoned the energy to deliver the finale this captivating contest deserved.

Medvedev had three break points in the second game of the fifth but could take none of them, Nadal finding depth and accuracy off both wings, and it was the Spaniard who just about proved to have more in the tank, surging into – and then almost losing – a 5-2 lead.

Nadal withstood a final show of Medvedev character and a break point that would have levelled the match once more and immediately fell flat on his back when an overhit forehand return secured a 7-5 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-4 success and his fourth US Open title, with the now 19-time major champion quick to acknowledge the 23-year-old's part in making this one of his most emotional triumphs.

"Daniil created this moment, too. The way that he fought, the way that he played, it's a champion way. I really believe that he will have many more chances," said Nadal at his media conference.

"These kind of matches in the final of grand slams makes the match more special. The way that the match became very dramatic at the end, that makes this day unforgettable."

Medvedev will take little solace in his incredible role in a losing cause. The story of the 2019 US Open men's singles will always end with Nadal tearfully clutching the trophy, but it is a tale that will not be able to be told without recalling how Medvedev made it one worth listening to, and how he ultimately saved the final slam of the year from being another anti-climax.

Remember when Rafael Nadal was "finished"?

Without a grand slam title in nearly three years, a wrist injury plaguing his career and ongoing questions over his knee?

That was three years ago and feels more like a lifetime.

Since the start of 2017, Nadal has won five grand slams, the most recent of which was the US Open after an epic five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in the final in New York on Sunday.

The Spanish great is up to 19 grand slam titles, just one shy of all-time men's record holder Roger Federer, while he pushed three clear of Novak Djokovic.

There was, perhaps rightly, a theory that Federer would have the best longevity of the 'Big Three', his style less reliant on the physicality of Nadal and Djokovic, whose relentlessness and gruelling approach from the baseline led to those suggestions.

But that has thus far proven to be wrong, and it is remarkably Nadal – with a remodelled serve helping his hard-court game this year – who has seriously starred since turning 30.

Federer turned 30 in August 2011, Nadal in June 2016 and Djokovic in May 2017.

In their 30s, Nadal has won five majors compared to four apiece for Federer and Djokovic, a tally few would have predicted and one that seems set to grow.

A battered body looked set to get the better of Nadal, but instead the majors in 2019 have belonged to him.

He finished with two grand slam titles and a 24-2 win-loss record – his best since going an extraordinary 25-1 in 2010.

At 33, there are some signs Nadal may be slowing down, and he unsurprisingly looked tired at times in the incredible clash with Medvedev that lasted almost five hours.

But he is showing he could be the king in the 30s of the 'Big Three', and he sure as anything is not finished yet.

At the end of his third-round match with Feliciano Lopez, Daniil Medvedev's relationship with the US Open fans seemed fractured beyond repair.

Hearing the boos that provided the soundtrack to his post-match on-court interview at Louis Armstrong Stadium after he had directed a middle-finger gesture at the fans following a disagreement with the umpire, it was impossible to believe Medvedev would be talking about leaving his heart out there for the New York crowd.

Yet that is what the Russian felt he had to do as he battled back from two sets down in a captivating five-set defeat to Rafael Nadal in the US Open final.

Medvedev seemed dead and buried in the match when he trailed 3-2 in the third having gone a break down.

The 23-year-old looked a spent force, but immediately responded and fought back magnificently. His name rang round Arthur Ashe Stadium as he recovered to win the third set, and a frenetic thrill ride of a final then swung dramatically in his direction as a punishing return gave him the decisive break in the fourth.

Nadal returned to being the crowd favourite as an enthralling match moved towards a nail-biting conclusion, with Medvedev unable to take advantage of break points at 1-1 and as the Spaniard served out the match.

Though he ultimately fell short in attempting to erase a 5-2 deficit in the decider, Medvedev's incredible effort and fighting spirit saw him definitively win back the affections of the Flushing Meadows public.

Speaking after his 7-5 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-4 loss, Medvedev was asked if he could have imagined having his name chanted by the crowd last week.

He replied: "I was being myself. I was fighting for every point. I think they appreciated it. Being break down in the third, I won the game, and I felt that these guys wanted some more tennis. They were cheering me up like crazy.

"I knew I had to leave my heart out there for them also. For myself first of all, but for them also. I think they saw it and they appreciate it. I'm thankful to them for this.

"The only thing going through my mind at this moment was I have to win next point, I have to win next game. I was not thinking too much, 'Okay, I'm from Russia, I'm in USA, they are cheering my name, what should I do?' No.

"It was a pleasure to be out there tonight. They were sometimes cheering my name, sometimes they were going for Rafa. I think it was just because the arena is so huge, there were so many people cheering both names, it was like changing all the time. I don't think it will be same people cheering two different names from one point to another.

"The atmosphere was the best of my life, I have to say."

Medvedev demonstrated incredible levels of endurance during his four hours, 49 minutes on court.

Asked if he could see himself competing at the same level at 33 years old, as Nadal continues to do, Medvedev said: "I do see myself at 33 years running and competing like Rafael Nadal.

"Although Rafa said it himself, that he changed his game a lot from younger age to be able to compete at the highest level. Maybe I'll have to do the same. This I cannot know."

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