John McEnroe believes Daniil Medvedev “choked” in the third set and allowed Rafael Nadal to fight back and win their Australian Open final thriller.
With the Russian leading by two sets, he had 0-40 on the Nadal serve at 3-2 in the third. Although Nadal showed tremendous fight to hold serve, he was aided by some peculiar shots from his opponent.
It proved costly. Nadal clicked into action as the momentum swung in his favour and, after five hours and 24 minutes, sealed victory and his 21st Grand Slam title.
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“The turning point of the match was 2-3, it was two sets to love,” said Eurosport expert and seven-time major champion McEnroe.
“It felt like Rafa felt deflated. I don't want to say he was resigned because obviously he's never resigned, he proved that, but it looked like he sort of expected that this was about to happen and losing in straight sets.
“I think Medvedev played a couple, I don't want to say careless, but maybe loose points. He got a little tentative because he could taste the finish line.
“And then all of a sudden it allowed the crowd back into the match because obviously the crowd was a big factor, I think.
“Then he started to show his edginess and started showing he was frustrated with the crowd and that made it worse for him. And that was the turning point right there.”
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McEnroe added: “As soon as that slight momentum shift, then he started to get tight. And basically to me he choked in the third set at that point. To me, he should have been up 4-2 in the third set.
“But once he let Rafa back in that allowed the crowd to get back in, and that was one of the most amazing efforts I've ever seen.”
Victory saw Nadal surpass Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the all-time charts of men’s major winners.
But it could have been a different story had Medvedev capitalised on breaking the Spaniard as his rival served for the title at 5-4 in the fifth set.
“Even at the very end, there were chances. I still thought that Medvedev… it's very tough to come back from two sets to love down," continued McEnroe.
“Rafa has only done it I think three times in his entire career, twice in Grand Slam matches. To do what he did there is insane.
“And even in the fifth set, you still sort of felt like, will he [Nadal] have enough energy to pull it off? Then it became apparent that he was still going pretty strong, but Medvedev got a second wind and it looked like maybe he could take over.
“And then Rafa breaks and was up 5-4 in the fifth set, 30-0, and he lost his serve. Then you think, ‘oh my God, maybe Medvedev is gonna win’… and then he loses serve.
“So it was truly memorable. I feel like it's hard to believe that I just watched that for the last five or six hours.”
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