It’s never too late to wrap up what was an incredible finish to the 2022 Australian Open.
1. RAFA THE GOAT
It’s undeniable. Rafael Nadal is now the GOAT (Great of All Time). There’s no debate.
He’s at 21, he’s got two career Slams.
Novak Djokovic is 20.
21 > 20.
You can argue Djokovic has more weeks at No. 1 or more non-clay Slams, etc. But 21 > 20 and since the next best tiebreaker is Career Slams — they are both even — that’s as far as I’ll go.
Plus, Nadal just beat the guy who beat Novak at the US Open, when the Serb had so much on the line. Nadal didn’t have as much, but he battled back. Djokovic didn’t.
2. RAFA’S RETURN
And at the US Open, Djokovic wasn’t coming off 5 months away from the game for an injury like Nadal.
Nadal is also a year older. Was playing on his least favorite surface, his worst Slam, the court on which he’s suffered the most on, he just had COVID a month earlier and a of course had a foot issue that nearly forced him to retire for good.
On top of that, he had to beat Medvedev, who was now a Grand Slam champion, and do it from two sets down and three break points down in the third.
Remember, Nadal hadn’t come from two sets down since 2007 and hadn’t won the Australian Open in 13 years since 2009!
This was not supposed to happen! Nadal was not and is not in peak form. And yet he still won.
Truly remarkable. One of the greatest feats in tennis history.
3. WHAT HAPPENED TO MEDVEDEV
I thought before the match that Medvedev should win and should win easily – even in straight sets. And he was on his way.
Once Nadal saved those break points in the third, Medvedev lost his game. Too many drop shots, poor shot selection and awful net play cost him. Nadal, who was left for dead, rose up like champions do and took advantage of Medvedev’s stupidity.
Medvedev was impenetrable early on but for whatever reason, he went away from his gameplan as a wall.
For him, it was a really bad loss. Maybe even career-changing. We’ll see in time how he rebounds. Look at Stefanos Tsitsipas, he still hasn’t recovered from the French Open.
Medvedev, while he already has a Slam, might be stuck at one for a some time longer.
4. BIG 3 > NEXTGEN
Remember the lost boys — Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov, Pablo Carreno Busta, etc.
So much for the NextGen guys like Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Matteo Berrettini. They might end up as the sequel.
They’ve all had heartbreak — Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev — losing from two sets up in a Slam final. Think about that.
Zverev hasn’t made a Slam final since. Nor has Tsitsipas. Recall Guillermo Coria had to quit the game. Who knows the long term effects.
It looks like again the French will go to Nadal if he can stay healthy. Then Djokovic gets Wimbledon and maybe the US Open. But bottom line, faith is lost again for these young guys.
5. NOVAK DJOKOVIC’S HORRIBLE MONTH
From getting deported to then watching your rival win your event to take the lead. Ouch.
And again, Rafa did it on his worst surface and beat the guy you lost to in New York.
Talk about rubbing it in.
Last August, there was no way Djokovic would go into the 2022 French behind in the Slam tally. It was almost a given he’d be at least up by one, maybe two. But now he’s down one and looking at Rafa getting another.
6. LOOKING AHEAD
Projecting ahead, I think it will take a few Slams for these young guys to get over the Medvedev loss — yes, his loss means the rest of them also lost. They hope they had after New York…gone! Poof!
Nadal, 10 years older than Medvedev, proved he’s tougher, stronger and smarter than the wise-ass Russian.
So if I give Nadal the French, Novak Wimbledon and maybe Medvedev gets New York.
But honestly, for the 7th time in the last 7 years, this could be and should be the last year the Big 3 win Slams. (Feel free to roast me in 2025!)
And Djokovic is going to lose No. 1. Probably this month. That probably isn’t a big deal to him, but was is is who knows how many events he’ll be able to play going forward. Being unvaccinated is going to prevent him from playing some if not many events.
7. SO WHO’S NEXT
I’m really souring on Zverev, Rublev and Berrettini. Even the Canadians. Zverev should be winning Slams, but that serve is hit-and-miss. Berrettini has some major flaws — namely his backhand and return game. Rublev’s has poor shot selection and his serve isn’t great.
Canadians kids have combined to win one title.
As I said, let’s see how Medvedev recovers. Tsitsipas is still recovering and still only 23.
Someone like Carlos Alcaraz could turn out better than them all. He’s much younger, but already suffered some crushing defeats.
Jannik Sinner needs to get better in best-of-5. Sebastian Korda and Casper Ruud are also solid. So this younger trio of Sinner-Korda-Alcaraz could pass the Medvedev-Tsitsipas-Zverev-Berrettini-Rublev bunch.
8. BARTY PARTY IS ON
It’s been 3-4 years since we’ve seen a true No. 1 in the women’s game. Ash Barty has changed that with her incredible title run.
And she’s a joy to watch. A unique game for this day and age, and she’s a true champion and true role model.
While she won’t be a mega-international star like Serena Williams, I think she’ll be a good ambassador for the game and solid No. 1 for a few more years.
The women’s tour has been rife with opportunity and well, she’s seized it. Outside of Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff in a few years, I don’t see anyone as a real threat to her No. 1 ranking and she’ll likely get her own calendar Slam sooner rather than later.
Good on ya, Ash!
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Andy Mira Says:
Whoooo!!…Awesome writing Sean!…Esp no 1 & 2!!…Thank u,thank u,thank u Sean!!
February 1st, 2022 at 10:07 pm