On Sunday we witnessed history, and it epitomised the great period of rich history of tennis that has blessed the court this generation. Rafael Nadal won this year’s Australian Open in a five-hour, five-set thriller against world number two Daniil Medvedev and in doing so he became the sole record-holder for most Grand Slam titles in the Open era with 21.
The Spaniard arguably delivered one of the best performances of his career against the Russian star, and it was a gripping match from start to finish. For the way he was able to move around the court and compete the way he did, if you were told that he had been out of action for six months prior to the tournament with a foot injury, you wouldn’t have believed it. The mental resilience Nadal showcased, not just to win what was one of his greatest Grand Slam triumphs, but to bounce back so swiftly from a serious injury and deliver such extraordinary tennis was scarcely believable.
It has been said many times about how great the longevity has been of Nadal and fellow legend Roger Federer. Nadal’s triumph in Melbourne, 13 years after his first and only other major win on the hard court Down Under just further highlights the greatness we have been privileged to witness for the last two decades and how unlikely we will ever see such fiercely talented individuals like them competing at the same time again.
Federer, Nadal, and Novak Djokovic have revolutionised tennis and made it one of the most intriguing sports on the planet, because the things they have achieved and the way they have played has been nothing short of incredible. They have each pushed each other to the limit and raised one another’s game as a result and it has made the sport one of the most popular to watch around the world. Some may try to discredit Nadal’s historic victory with the argument of Djokovic’s absence, but the Spaniard could only beat what was in front of him, and apart from the Serbian, Medvedev was the toughest opponent he would face.
In Sunday’s jaw-dropping final, the fairytale seemed to come to a dead stop as Nadal went two sets behind but as this legendary figure has proven time and again, you can never write off a player who has won so much in his career. The mental strength the 35-year-old showed to pull two sets back to level the enthralling final was some of the very best we have ever seen of Nadal on court and it was a display which really did roll back the years for the Spaniard.
After the gruelling, competitive five-hour match, as Medvedev could not return Nadal’s match-winning shot, the world number five emitted one of the most radiant smiles ever as he processed what he had just achieved. The Rod Laver Arena crowd were up on their feet applauding one of the sport’s greatest ever players, who had just established himself as the front-runner for the greatest of all time status, and with 21 Grand Slam titles in 17 years, it would be hard to disagree.
Nadal is truly the left-handed wonder of tennis.