Tennis legends salute King Rafael Nadal after heroic win over Daniil Medvedev – Australian Open diary
Who thought Rafael Nadal would be the first man to reach 21 Grand Slam titles? The Spaniard surpassed Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic with his heroic five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final on Sunday. Reem Abulleil is back with her last diary from Melbourne Park after an unforgettable final act in a thrilling fortnight.
'F***' - Nadal drops expletive in brilliant interview with trophy
It really seemed like the unlikeliest of victories, especially when Rafael Nadal was staring down a 0-40 deficit at 2-3 in the third set after dropping the opening two sets to Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final on Sunday.
The infamous “win predictor” showed up on screen and gave the Spaniard a 4% chance of defeating Medvedev.
But Nadal did what he does best; he defied the odds and pulled off an astonishing comeback to overcome the world No. 2 in a five-hour 24-minute contest that earned him a men’s all-time record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title, just two months after he was contemplating retirement due to a chronic foot injury.
Tributes poured in as the 35-year-old lifted his second Australian Open trophy – his first since 2009.
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, the two men Nadal has now surpassed in the race for Grand Slam supremacy, posted congratulatory messages on social media.
“A few months ago, we were joking about both being on crutches. Amazing. Never underestimate a great champion. You incredible worth ethic, dedication and fighting spirit are an inspiration to me and countless others around the world,” said Federer, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since Wimbledon last year.
Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, described Nadal’s victory as an “amazing achievement. Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time”.
Highlights: Nadal wins Australian Open and claims 21st Grand Slam title
Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea posted, “I LOVE tennis”, during the match, while Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos tweeted: “Rafael Nadal. That’s the tweet.”
Formula One driver George Russell posted: “Wow Rafael Nadal. What an athlete! What a player! Congrats on 21.”
WTA players Daria Kasatkina and Alize Cornet both tweeted that they were crying, “you are my idol, Rafael Nadal”, added the latter; while two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova wrote: “Rafa, your spirit and fight has no limit. You are a true inspiration to us all. Thank you for teaching us what it means to never give up. Enjoy #21.”
The legendary Chris Evert said she had “tremendous respect” for Nadal’s “heroic effort” while Jessica Pegula wrote that she believed the Mallorcan is “the best competitor in sports in my opinion”.
Hard to argue with that!
Medvedev says kid in him 'has stopped dreaming'
It was a rowdy and emotional final and Medvedev started to get really frustrated with the crowd, complaining to the umpire that they were shouting between his first and second serves.
At some point, the Russian wanted chair umpire John Blom to announce to people in the stands that whoever behaved that way “is an idiot”.
Medvedev kept urging Blom to be more diligent with the crowd and he sarcastically gave them a thumbs up at some point after they cheered one of his double faults.
Medvedev slates ‘disrespectful’ crowd, suggests poor reception is because he is Russian
After the match, there was an unusual start to Medvedev’s press conference as he began with a lengthy monologue, talking about his journey in tennis from being a “young kid who dreamed about big things in tennis”.
He spoke about various moments where that kid in him found reasons to stop dreaming and that after Sunday’s final, where he felt hard-done by the crowd, “the kid that was dreaming isn’t anymore in me after today”.
Medvedev said the crowd was “disrespectful” and “disappointing” and “I’m not sure after 30 years I’m going to want to play tennis”.
It’s unfortunate that Medvedev walks away with these feelings after playing his heart out all tournament.
Nadal gave props to Medvedev after the final and is certain the world No.2 will have plenty of fans on his side moving forward.
“I think Daniil is a great champion. He accepted very well the loss,” said Nadal.
“I just can say thanks to him because have been a very hard night I think for him. I know how tough is to be in that position after all the chances that he had.
“He always has been nice with me. He understood how emotional and important was this match for me and this title for me. He was very nice at the end of the match, no?
“I don't know if the crowd affect to him. Of course, is better to have the crowd on your side. Tonight was crazy for me. But I really believe that he has a great future in front. He going to feel this love of the crowd in the future, no, because he deserve.”
Iga shows her support
Rafa superfan Iga Swiatek stuck around in Melbourne after losing in the semi-finals and made sure she didn’t miss the men’s final, hoping to witness her idol make history on Sunday.
Swiatek had told Polish press that Nadal texted her after her defeat to Danielle Collins on Thursday, congratulating her on “playing a great tournament”, reminding her that she had a great start to the year and that she should focus on her next steps because she’s on the right track.
The young Pole will no doubt take that advice to heart.
Swiatek later tweeted that she was stressed throughout the entire match, that her “forehead muscles will literally be sore for the next two days”.
Moonballs galore in doubles final
Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova secured their fourth Grand Slam title together, and their first at the Australian Open, with a comical match point that saw Krejcikova engage in a rally of exaggerated moonballs before wrapping up the victory.
The reigning French Open champion recalled how she used to hit those outrageous shots when she was a kid and Siniakova joked that Krejcikova “was killing me with that” growing up.
“I can say that this was pretty much my game when I was like under 12, because we had the tournaments back home, and the girls, they were quite small, because we were young,” said Krejcikova.
“There have been like courts that they didn't really have that much space, like there was the fans like three metres behind the baseline. So playing all the balls, like all these loops when they bounce, they were just coming over the fence.
“I was kind of good in it, and then I had to change and play a different game. But I'm still happy that I still have it in me and you see like balls like this are winning the trophy. It's really important to know everything.”
Points of the day
With Medvedev serving at 6-2, 1-2, 15-30, Nadal breathed new life into his cause by winning a sensational 40-shot rally that ended with a backhand slice drop shot winner that would have made Ashleigh Barty proud.
It earned the Spaniard a pair of break points and he went on to open up a 4-1 gap on Medvedev before surrendering the 84-minute second set in the tiebreak.
'What a shot!' - Nadal wins incredible 40-shot rally with outrageous slice
The down-the-line forehand winner that Nadal fired to break Medvedev for a 3-2 lead in the final set was also one for the history books, given its timing, the execution, and the position is put the Spaniard in.
Stats of the day
Nadal now owns a men’s all-time record 21 Grand Slam titles from 29 Slam finals reached.
Nadal is the first player in the Open Era to come back from two-sets-to-love down and go on to win the final of the Australian Open.
It was the first time since 2007 the Spaniard has successfully come back from a two-sets-to-love deficit.
Nadal now owns 90 career titles, 24 of which have come on hard courts.
At 35 years 241 days, Nadal is the third man in the Open Era ((after Roger Federer and Ken Rosewall) to win the Australian Open title after turning 35.
Nadal’s win over Medvedev was his 31st top-five victory at a Grand Slam.
Nadal saved 16/22 break points against Medvedev on Sunday.
Medvedev finished the Australian Open with a tournament-leading 117 aces.
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