A Champion’s Heart Guides Nadal To His Most Important Victory

Rafael Nadal (photo: Fiona Hamilton / Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 31, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Early Monday morning, Rafael Nadal scored the most important comeback victory of his storied career when he won the 2022 Australian Open men’s singles title on Rod Laver Arena. It happened before a partisan crowd that cheered his every winner hit through the duration of his five-hour and 24-minute title match against Daniil Medvedev, which Nadal won 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.

When it was over, Nadal didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so he did a little of both.

For Nadal, 35, a man on a mission during the Australian fortnight, he became the first to secure a men’s record 21st major singles title, breaking the tie he shared with his biggest rivals, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who are now tied for second with 20. While Federer remained at home in Switzerland rehabbing from knee surgery, Djokovic was sent home by the country’s immigration minister, who declared the unvaccinated Serbian to be a threat to public health and order.

A day after Ashleigh Barty won the women’s singles title and became the first homegrown player to win an Australian Open singles title in 44 years, Nadal showed the Melbourne fans and a worldwide television audience who tuned in at all hours around the globe why he’s the fiercest competitor in the sport of tennis.

Against Medvedev, who denied Djokovic of a calendar-year Grand Slam by winning the US Open in straight sets last September, Nadal produced some of his best tennis – especially after spotting the 25-year-old Russian a two-sets-to-love advantage while committing some very un-Nadal-like unforced errors.

By the time that Nadal garnered victory at 1:12 a.m., which made him the sport’s most decorated Grand Slam men’s singles champion, the match had gone through a variety of momentum swings and there were plenty of memorable and dazzling winners hit by both competitors that will be remembered for a long time. The two worthy finalists, Nadal and Medvedev, played a total of 371 points, with the Russian winning 189 of them and Nadal 182.

“I was repeating to myself during the whole match that I lost a lot of times here having chances,” Nadal recalled during his post-match press conference, which took place in the wee hours of Monday morning. After his 2009 Australian Open title victory, there were a series of four straight losses in Melbourne finals before ending the skid against Medvedev. “Sometimes I was a little bit unlucky. I just wanted to keep believing until the end, no? I just wanted to give myself a chance.”

After securing championship point, Nadal stood motionless for a moment and beamed a big smile while soaking in the plaudits of the fans who stood and cheered for him. Judging from the expression on his face, there was a mixture of laughter and tears of joy permeating Nadal. After all, Nadal hadn’t experienced the feeling of winning a major since capturing the 2020 French Open.

After Nadal shook hands with Medvedev, he returned to the center of the court and, as is his custom after winning an important match, punched the air, flexed his arms and pumped his fists toward the heavens. It was as if to signify that all was well and Nadal’s mission was successfully completed. In addition to winning his 21st major title, he also became just the fourth man in the Open Era to capture every major twice.

“This has been one of the most emotional nights of my tennis career,” Nadal said during the trophy ceremony, in which he lifted the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup for the second time in his storied career. Considering all the adversity Spaniard had been through in recent months in being sidelined with a chronic foot injury that wasn’t always responding to therapy, then contracting COVID-19 after returning home from a December exhibition in Abu Dhabi, it prompted him to say later on during his post-match press conference: “If we put everything together, the scenario, the momentum, what it means. Yeah, without a doubt probably have been the biggest comeback of my tennis career.”

The Spaniard told the crowd: “One month and a half [ago], I would say that maybe there is a chance that this was going to be my last Australian Open, but now I have plenty of energy to keep going. I really can’t explain the feelings that I have right now, but I am going to keep trying my best to keep coming next year.”

Nadal admitted how taxing it had been stringing together seven straight wins over the past two weeks at Melbourne Park, which included a five-set quarterfinal victory against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov last Tuesday. Yet, after breaking the all-time record for Grand Slam men’s singles titles and becoming the third-oldest Australian Open men’s winner, Nadal seemed energized – even blessed – by his success.

“I was not ready physically for these kinds of battles, honestly,” Nadal said. “I am super, super tired in all ways. I even can’t celebrate. But it was the day to give everything, no? I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the fight. I enjoyed the emotions. At the end to have this trophy with me means everything.”

Twenty-one majors but one Rafa

Nadal receives congratulations from Federer and Djokovic

Soon after Rafael Nadal secured his 21stmajor title early Monday at the Australian Open, he received congratulations from tennis legends like Rod Laver and Billie Jean King and fellow players, among them Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Rafa and Norman on tour

On Monday, Rafael Nadal celebrated his victory with a photo shoot at Government House in Melbourne.

Daniil Medvedev: He will be back

ATP and WTA: Updated rankings after Australian Open

The ATP and WTA have released new rankings following the Australian Open fortnight.

The ATP Top 10 saw minimal change with Matteo Berrettini moving up one spot to No. 6 and Andrey Rublev dropped one place to No. 7. Otherwise, the Top 10 remained unchanged with Novak Djokovic remaining at No. 1 with 11,015 points followed by Daniil Medvedev at No. 2 with 10,125 points. The remaining Top 10: 3. Alexander Zverev, 4. Stefanos Tsitsipas, 5. Rafael Nadal, 6. Matteo Berrettini, 7. Andrey Rublev, 8. Casper Ruud, 9. Felix Auger-Aliassime, 10. Jannik Sinner.

Meanwhile, the WTA rankings features American Danielle Collins making her Top 10 debut at No. 10. The rest of the Top 10: 1. Ashleigh Barty, 2. Aryna Sabalenka, 3. Barbora Krejcikova, 4. Iga Switatek, 5. Karolina Pliskova, 6. Paula Badosa, 7. Garbiñe Muguruza, 8. Maria Sakkari, 9. Anett Kontaveit, 10. Danielle Collins.

By the numbers

By winning the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal received $2,875,000 (Australian dollars) in prize money, while Daniil Medvedev collected $1,575,000 (Australian dollars). In total, the me’s singles prize fund for the men’s singles at the 2022 Australian Open was $26,074,000 (Australian dollars).

“Quotable …”

“Have been just amazing for me, unforgettable. Of course, after this month of practicing hard, playing very long matches, the foot was able to hold all this stress. Of course, I feel more confident that I going to have the chance to keep going, keep fighting, keeping enjoying this beautiful sport. That’s what make me happy inters of professional thing, no?”

Rafael Nadal of Spain, after winning his 21stmajor title at the Australian Open.