Norwegian tennis player Casper Ruud is backing Rafael Nadal to make history and win a record 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open.
Daniil Medvedev stands in the way of Nadal claiming the record, after he beat Daniil Medvedev to secure his spot in the Melbourne final.
Nadal remains locked alongside Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on 20 career major titles, with many suggesting whoever ends their career out in front will be remembered as the greatest player of all time.
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Thinking about who the stand-out figure is out of the trio, Ruud tells Eurosport it’s a “very tough, tough question”.
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“My personal favourite has always been Rafa because I watched him for so many years”, he said, having seen the 35-year-old get past Matteo Berrettini in five sets in their Melbourne semi-final.
Ruud has fond recollections of seeing Nadal in action from a very early age, saying “even the first memory I have of watching TV is him winning his first Roland Garros. I still remember he’s playing sleeveless against Puerta I think in the final.
Running around like a maniac and getting every ball back.
That victory on the French clay in 2005 was the start of something special for Nadal, who went on to win the tournament four years in a row, as he collected his first batch of major trophies.
Not only was that the beginning of his rise to superstardom, but, little did the Spaniard know, he was also inspiring the next generation of players.
“That’s like the first memory I even have myself of watching TV and thinking myself when I was six, seven years old that I would like to be on the screen myself, so in a way he’s the one who started my motivation for tennis so it’s tough for me not to say him”, said Ruud, who was forced to pull out of this year’s Australian Open through injury.
After his dominance in France in the early noughties, Nadal went on to sample success at the other Grand Slams, taking the Wimbledon title in 2008, as well as winning in Melbourne in 2009 - a title he has not won since.
Highlights: Nadal closes on 21st Grand Slam title by beating Berrettini to reach final
After having to go toe-to-toe with Federer in his early days of challenging for the majors, a new nemesis soon arrived in the shape of Novak Djokovic.
The Serbian denied Nadal victory in three successive Grand Slam finals, at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2011, as well as the 2012 Australian Open.
Since then, Nadal’s won ten of the major finals he’s appeared in, losing just once apiece to Federer and Djokovic in a showpiece match, and going down to Stan Wawrinka in Melbourne in 2014.
The topsy-turvy battle over the years between Nadal, Federer and Djokovic has intrigued and excited tennis fans in equal measure, and Ruud thinks it’s so difficult to split them.
“I think when we look at the Slams, it’s all even. Let’s see what happens after this week but when it comes to all other records, you can’t deny that Novak maybe has a couple more records than the other ones, but for them it seems like the Grand Slam count is the ultimate thing that they want to achieve and I think they’ve all kind of approached it differently”, he said.
One thing Ruud thinks sets Nadal apart is his humble nature, saying, “I’ve seen Rafa say, for him, I don’t think his happiness depends whether who has the most in the end, but I’m sure when he plays the final he will have in the back of his mind that this is a good chance for him to maybe get another one.”
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