Rafael Nadal Wins the Australian Open in a History-Making Victory

The past two weeks of the men’s singles competition at this year’s Australian Open have seen grueling rises to the top for Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal—and when the two met in Melbourne Park for the tournament’s final earlier today, it was for a match that will inevitably go down as one of the most memorable in Nadal’s career. 

In an exhilarating back and forth that ran for almost five and a half hours, both players were at the peak of their powers. It was Nadal, however, who rallied from two sets down to storm to a record-breaking victory, becoming the first player to win 21 Grand Slams in men’s singles. In doing so, the 35-year-old Spanish player overtakes both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who have 20 each under their belts.

Medvedev took the first set without much of a hitch following a series of mistakes from Nadal, before an epic 84-minute second set that saw Nadal continue to trail before eventually reaching a tie break, where he began to claw his way back to a fighting chance, even as Medvedev took the set 6-4. A nail-biting third set saw Nadal down 2-3, 0-40, when he began to turn his game back around, eventually taking the set 6-4. After he won the fourth set 6-4, too, the energy of the crowd—who made it clear from the beginning that their allegiance laid with Nadal—began to swell, with boos and jeers directed at Medvedev that led to reprimands from the chair umpire and a visibly frustrated Medvedev himself.

The final set was decided after Nadal began to break Medvedev’s serve, and despite a brief wobble, he held his nerve to bring home a stunning, career-best victory. The win was all the sweeter not just for the uproarious support he received from those watching, but also in light of Nadal’s long history of injuries—most notably, the foot injury he has suffered since childhood, which forced him to take a six-month break last year (and almost made him leave tennis). Having not played an official match since last August—and having tested positive for COVID at the end of December—Nadal‘s ability to participate in this year’s Australian Open was far from certain, making his win even more phenomenal.

Nadal celebrates his win. Photo: Getty Images

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