Rafael Nadal is now the leader in terms of most Grand Slam titles all time with 21!
The Spaniard authored one of the greatest wins of his lengthy career coming back from bring to beat Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in a 5 hour, 24 minute pulse-pounding thriller.
“It was one of the most emotional matches of my career,” Nadal told the crowd. “To share the court with Daniil was just an honour. It is amazing. To be honest, one and a half months ago I wasn’t sure if was able to be back on the Tour playing tennis again. But today I am here in front of all of you with this trophy in front of me. You are just amazing, thank you so much.”
The numbers for Nadal are staggering. He wins his 90th career title, his first 0-2 comeback since Wimbledon 2007, becomes the first player to win the Australian Open title from two sets down since 1965 and he collects a second career Slam, equaled by only Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Novak Djokovic.
“At the end history is about the victory, but the way that you win the match in terms of personal feelings is different,” Nadal said. “The way that I achieved this trophy tonight was just unforgettable, one of the most emotional matches of my tennis career, without a doubt. Means a lot to me.”
Nadal’s 13-year gap between first and second titles at a single Slam is also an Open Era record.
The longest Grand Slam final since Nadal’s epic loss to Djokovic in 2012 on the same court began with Medvedev in full control.
Nadal couldn’t penetrate the Medvedev defense until the second set, when Nadal broke for 4-1. But Medvedev clawed back and won the last four points of the tiebreaker to take what looked like an insurmountable lead.
No player in the Open Era had come from two sets down to win the Australian Open, and Nadal hadn’t done it since he was 21.
With Nadal look weary in the legs, Medvedev got out to a 40-0 lead on Nadal’s serve at 3-2. But Medvedev couldn’t slam the door, and Nadal gained strength, gained power. Helped by the crowed, Nadal would win 12 of the last 14 points to force a fourth set.
Nadal would save early break points, then the traded breaks. But Nadal would get another break against Medvedev who was falling apart mentally. The Russian who had dominated early, was off his game, trying drop shots, failing at the net while Nadal was recharged with the crowd behind.
The two would leave the court after the fourth. Medvedev came back looking better, but at 2-all he was broken.
For a third time in his career, Nadal would hold a break lead in the fifth set of an Australian Open final. And would you believe, serving for the title at 5-4 he was broken. Medvedev, though, couldn’t do anything and moments later Nadal was able to complete the comeback serving it out at love.
“If we put everything together, the scenario, the momentum, what it means…yeah, probably the biggest comeback of my tennis career,” Nadal said.
Nadal spoke about that moment in the third when he faced three break points.
“In that moment, of course, the situation was critical,” said Nadal. “But sport is unpredictable. The normal thing is to lose the match in straight sets from that situation. On the other hand, I had a big chance in the second too.
“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. I just wanted to give myself a chance.
“That’s what I did. Just fight, just keep belief in trying to find a solution. Of course, I was lucky to save that moment. A lot of moments that can decide the final like this.”
Medvedev was trying to stop another legend from reaching 21. He was just a point from maybe doing it.
“Tough to talk after playing five hours and 30 minutes and losing, but I want to congratulate Rafa because what he did today, I was amazed,” Medvedev said. “After the match I asked him, ‘Are you tired?’ because it was insane. You raised your level after the first two sets for your 21st Grand Slam title. You are an amazing champion, it was unbelievable.
“The way he managed to play throughout all these sets, even in the tough moments, for him it was for making history,” he added. “For sure he tried not to think about it, but it must have been somewhere in his head.”
Despite the loss, Medvedev will likely reach the No. 1 ranking next month. But this was a missed opportunity.
“That was a good moment when I had the triple break point,” Medvedev said. “Actually I don’t remember all of them in details, but I remember that all of three returns I made it in. Just got a little bit tight. But, again, that’s tennis. Should have done better. Should have hit a winner. Maybe would have
won the match.
“Tactically nothing changed. I feel like I was playing right. But Rafa stepped up. The only thing, that physically was a little bit up and down, and yeah, he was I think stronger than me physically today.”
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