Rafael Nadal wins an 'unbelievable' 21 titles at the Australian open


Nadal at the Australian Open

Rafael Nadal looked back to some of his most tough defeats when he was down two sets and facing triple break point, with his chances of capturing a record 21st Grand Slam championship all but gone.

Nadal, a known end-to-end combatant, pushed deep in that crucial time and won the following four points to overcome Daniil Medvedev's imminent threat. He held for 3-3 in the third set minutes later, reversing the direction of the Australian Open final.

With a remarkable 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 comeback victory that lasted 5 hours, 24 minutes and ended early Monday morning, Nadal became the first man to reach 21 Grand Slam singles championships.

The 35-year-old Spaniard now has one more major victory than his long-time opponents in the so-called Big Three, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

In Australia, he was the only one of three who had a chance to break the record individually.

Djokovic was deported from Australia on the eve of the event because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. Federer is still recovering from knee surgery, while Djokovic was deported from Australia on the eve of the tournament because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Now that Nadal has won all four major titles at least twice, he is only the fourth man in history to do so.

"I was repeating to myself during the whole match, 'I lost a lot of times here having chances, sometimes I was a little bit unlucky, I just wanted to keep believing until the end." said Nadal

At 5-4 in the fifth set, Nadal was broken when serving for the title for the first time, but he made no mistake two games later, converting the first of his victory points.

"Without a doubt probably the biggest comeback of my tennis career," he remarked, taking into consideration "the circumstances, the momentum."

He went on to say, "Certainly," "The most surprising. And, I believe, the most shocking for everyone."

From afar, Federer and Djokovic were watching, and each used social media to congratulate Nadal on breaking their three-way tie atop the men's Grand Slam rankings.

The final between Nadal and Medvedev, which began late Sunday night and was delayed in the 84-minute second set when a human rights protester stepped onto the court, ended about 1:15 a.m.

Nadal was serving for the second set when he was broken. Then, in the third set, Medvedev had his chances to break again, but he acknowledged he became tense.

Rod Laver, the aging Australian tennis legend for whom Melbourne Park's main stadium is named, was photographing the scene in the backdrop with his smartphone. "Rafa is the GOAT," read a placard held up by a lady nearby.

Nadal hailed Medvedev for his role in the Australian Open final, which ended up being the second-longest in history. The time it took Nadal to lose to Djokovic a decade ago was 5:53.

Nadal's 21st major championship was all the more impressive given that he had just two matches under his belt in the second half of 2021 due to a severe foot issue. He also battled a COVID-19 infection.

After winning the Australian Open for the first time in 2009, Nadal went on to lose four more finals here. His big finals conversion rate is presently 21 out of 29.

Medvedev, who was attempting to become the first player in the Open era to win his second Grand Slam championship at the next major, came perilously close to wrecking yet another 21st birthday party.

When Djokovic lost in straight sets to Medvedev in the final of the US Open last year, he was seeking the same record and a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Federer had a chance at 21 as well, but Djokovic stopped him after saving match points on his way to the 2019 Wimbledon final.

For Nadal, it was only the fourth time he'd come back from a two-game deficit, and the first since 2007.

Medvedev, who lost to Djokovic in the 2021 final in Melbourne, opened his postmatch press conference by describing himself as "a young child who dreamed of tremendous things in tennis" but has since been disillusioned. He later expressed his dissatisfaction with the way spectators treated him in the final and earlier in the competition.

"I'm going to play for myself from now on," Medvedev stated. "For the sake of my family. To provide for my family and those who have placed their confidence in me. Of course, for all Russians, as I receive a lot of support from them."

Medvedev headed to the changeover with a sarcastic thumbs-up to the audience after Nadal broke him in the third game of the fourth set on a double-fault. 

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