Rafael Nadal has edged Daniil Medvedev in a classic Australian Open final, roaring back from two sets down to claim a record 21st Grand Slam title only months after fearing his career might be over due to injury.
With Novak Djokovic forced out by deportation and Roger Federer recovering from knee surgery, the Spanish great is now one major title clear of his “Big Three” rivals after surviving the 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 thriller at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.
Riding a wave of raucous support from the crowd, a vintage Nadal pulled off one of his finest performances to deny Medvedev again, less than three years after leaving the Russian heartbroken in five sets at the 2019 US Open final.
In a match steeped in drama, Nadal was two points from the title but was broken as he served for the match at 5-4.
He held firm to break Medvedev again and served out the match to love, rushing in to deliver a backhand volley as a stunning coup de grace.
Dropping his racket, Nadal shook his head and grinned, then kicked a tennis ball away and pumped his fists in delight.
It was a triumph that defied time and logic, the 35-year-old completing his first five-set win from a two-set deficit in 15 years – since overhauling Mikhail Youzhny in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2007.
Having suffered four final defeats in 2012, 2014, 2017 and 2019, Nadal can now savour a second Melbourne Park crown, 13 years after beating Federer in the 2009 decider.
The long hair and pirate shorts of that decade have fallen by the wayside, but the class and fighting spirit endure in the face of Nadal’s titanic battles to recover from injuries.
Having missed Wimbledon due to fatigue and the US Open because of a chronic condition in his left foot, Nadal was on the brink of quitting in late-2021 and felt blessed just to turn up at Melbourne Park this year.
His ability to play seven matches felt miraculous for the Spaniard, who joins Djokovic, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only men to win each Grand Slam title twice.
“It was one of the most emotional matches in my tennis career,” Nadal said in his on-court interview. “I don’t know what to say. For me, it’s just amazing.
“Being honest, one month and a half ago, I did not know if I will be able to be back on the tour and play tennis again. And today, in front of all of you (the crowd), having this trophy with me … you really don’t know how much I fought to be here.
“Having the huge support that I received during the three weeks is going to stay in my heart forever.”
Now more than ever, world number one Djokovic may rue his failed bid to defend his title in Melbourne without COVID-19 vaccination.
His deportation threw the tournament wide open, leaving a vacuum for Nadal to fill and strike a potentially decisive blow in the Grand Slam race.
Nadal’s conversion record in major finals is now 21 out of 29. Federer and Djokovic each have 20 majors from 31 finals appearances.
Ronaldo Plans To Leave Manchester United After Drawn With Southampton
I’m not young again – Ronaldo set to dump Man Utd for second time
Manchester United forward, Cristiano Ronaldo has told his friends he is “feeling his age” and could cut short his return to Old Trafford, the UK Sun reports.
The 37-year-old, who has not netted in his last five games, is on course to have his least productive season.
Although Ronaldo is United’s top scorer with eight Premier League goals, he only has half as many as Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.
He has also come under fire for his lack of pressing and mobility.
As well as United looking to bring in a young striker, Ronaldo himself is having increasing doubts over his ability to keep on performing for United.
The Portugal captain has told friends he is feeling the pace of the football in England and his age may finally be catching up with him, although he would never admit it in public.
Ronaldo is even considering cutting short his United comeback and leaving in the summer if his own situation – and that of the team – does not change dramatically.
Middlesbrough Defeated Man United In Penalties Shootout
Roy Keane reveals what Middlesbrough’s win would do to Man United
Keane said he expected the former Premier League title holders to defeat the Championship side after putting up a fantastic performance in the first half.
Championship side Boro recorded a surprising win in the FA fourth round progressing to the fifth round on an 8-7 penalty shoot-out victory.
Jadon Sancho put United into a deserved lead and Matt Crooks levelled for the visitors in the second half with the game headed into extra time and penalty shootout.
“You have to be critical of Manchester United. The first half, they were fantastic, but they are playing a Championship team at home in the cup,” Keane told ITV.
“Obviously, it’s not good enough. Defeat changes the mood. It changes the mood in the ground as well.
“The fans would have been thinking they would win tonight and, being at home, I fully expected them to beat a Championship team.
“But now, it just adds more and more pressure to the upcoming games.”
Another AArsenal Player Is About To Follow Aubameyang To Barcelona
See you soon – Lacazette finally speaks out on Aubameyang’s move to Barcelona
Arsenal striker, Alexandre Lacazette, has broken his silence on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s move to Barcelona.
Aubameyang signed for the Gunners only six months after Lacazette arrived at the club.
The two strikers developed a strong understanding both on and off the pitch.
This week however, Aubameyang saw his contract terminated at Arsenal and has now signed for Barca.
My bro!! Thanks for the last 4 years, my experience in Arsenal would have been different without you.
“Wish you good luck in your next chapter! See you soon,” Lacazette tweeted.
It is believed that Lacazette himself has rejected a contract extension at the club and is set to return to Lyon in the summer.
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