The tears flowed as Rafael Nadal sat on the Arthur Ashe Stadium, watching a montage on the giant screen chronicling all 19 of his Grand Slam wins.
He was physically and emotionally shattered, having just needed to produce one of his greatest fights to see off Daniil Medvedev to win an epic US Open final.
Somewhere in Switzerland Roger Federer was giving himself another kick about his failure to take his chances in the Wimbledon final this year, because his lead on the all-time leaderboard of major wins is now hanging by a racket string. Novak Djokovic, the other part of the trinity, was probably looking at an American crowd chanting the name of a Russian, and wondering why he struggles to find a similar place in their affections.
Nadal tries to keep in proportion the battle with his two rivals for who can win the most Grand Slam events, pointing out that coveting what your neighbour has is not the true path to contentment.
‘You can’t be all day looking next to you thinking about one having more or one having a little bit less, because you will be frustrated,’ he said, before flying home. ‘I would love to be the one who has more, yes. But I really believe that I will not be happier or less happy if that happens. What gives you the happiness is the personal satisfaction that you gave your best.’
Yet it would be naive to think that finishing top of this particular Champions League is anything other than a burning ambition.
‘I feel honoured to be part of this battle,’ he added. ‘If that attracts fans and creates interest among people it’s good for the sport.’
Mats Wilander, the seven-time major winner, was positing the opinion after the match that one by-product of this fortnight is that Federer, 38, might now be energised to compete hard until he is at least 40. It should also sharpen the appetite of Djokovic, once he gets fit again. The Serb does not give much away in public about his injuries, but there are those around the ATP Tour who say he is more concerned about his current left shoulder problem than he was about his elbow, which eventually required minor surgery.
Another thing to emerge from Sunday is that the ageing trio might now, at long last, have a serious younger challenger who can deprive them of the big prizes.
The way Medvedev combined his metronomic hitting from the back of the court with forays to the net gave him enough break-point opportunities in the deciding set to have completed one of the greatest comebacks of all.
But while he has injected youthful promise, the record will show that Nadal and Djokovic split the Grand Slam singles titles between them this year. Croatia’s Marin Cilic remains the last new men’s major winner, five years ago.Daily Mail