Rafael Nadal v Daniil Medvedev For The Australian Open Title, Who’s The Pick?
So once again Daniil Medvedev is facing a tennis great trying to make more history. Just over four months ago, in a performance for the ages he emphatically denied Novak Djokovic’s quest for a Calendar Slam and a record-smashing 21st Slam.
Now, Medvedev can play spoiler again. He meets Rafael Nadal. Nadal doesn’t have as much at stake as the Serb did, but again he does have a 21st Slam and a second Career Slam, something only Novak Djokovic has done in the Open Era in the men’s game.
And if Nadal wins, is he the undeniable GOAT? He would have to be, right? But that’s a different post for a different time.
Back on court, the semifinals the other night went as scripted. Nadal found Matteo Berrettini’s backhand, then withstood a late serving barrage to hang on and win in four sets. It was vintage Nadal early, then nervy Nadal late, but Berrettini showed late in the fourth that he just doesn’t have that resolve right now to beat one of these all-time greats on a big stage in a big moment.
Medvedev then toppled Tsitsipas for a second straight year in the semifinals. Medvedev looked scary good at times off the ground, especially off the backhand wing. And when he’s in full flight like he was in the fourth, it’s jaw-dropping. After Medvedev’s well-played, almost pre-determined umpire spat, Tsitsipas needed to rise up and match Medvedev’s emotions, I think. The Greek’s game is there, the belief maybe isn’t.
So here we are.
RAFAEL NADAL v DANIIL MEDVEDEV
Again, Nadal admitted the other night after beating Denis Shapovalov that basically 35 ain’t 25. And he’s right.
Even though he had two days off after that win over the Canadian and another day off after Berrettini, I have to think he’s a little weary, and surprised he’s still in the event. And remember her didn’t play at the end of 2021, so overall well short on match play.
But Nadal is a champion. One of the greatest of all time.
Medvedev, who is ten years younger, should be fresh, hungry and confident. Nadal has won three of four including a harrowing US Open final over two years ago. But the matches have been close and I think since that New York battle, Medvedev has become better while Rafa’s digressed.
Nadal’s problem here is Medvedev. The Russian is so tough off the ground and he moves and defends so well. Against Berrettini, Rafa had a huge edge going forehand to backhand. Now, that could almost be a liability unless Medvedev is way, way back in the court.
So for Nadal, he’ll have to serve big, return well, and bring Medvedev in and convert break chances opportunities. This is a totally different match than Berrettini or Shapovalov.
For Medvedev, he needs to play his game: big serving (esp that sneaky second serve) and keep pounding groundstrokes. He’s already won a Slam, so in some ways, even as the favorite, the pressure is off. It’s Nadal who is chasing history.
But Daniil’s the road block. The wall. He’s built like one. And he’s done it once, and he’s going to do it again. Because of Nadal’s greatness, I think Rafa gets a set, but that’s it.
The Pick: Medvedev in 4
Medvedev’s been the dominant force on hard courts for some time now. With his height, speed and smarts, if he can only translate that to clay and grass he could challenge the greatest of tennis records down the road.
Win or lose, it’s remarkable what Rafa is achievement at age 35, after all he’s been thru — remember he just got over a bout with COVID last month, and wasn’t sure if he would make the trip. Few thought 10 years ago he would still be playing, still be winning and winning on of all surfaces on hard courts.
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