Melbourne, Australia — Rafael Nadal, just months after almost retiring from tennis due to a foot injury, moves clear of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic after winning his second Australian Open title.
Winning at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2009 would make him the first man ever to win a 21st grand slam title but it didn’t come easy for Nadal, coming back from two sets down to beat No. 2 Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 6-7, 6-4 6-4 7-5.
After the match, Nadal dropped his racket to the court in disbelief before pumping his fists in the air and celebrating with his team.
At 5 hours and 24 minutes, it was the second longest Australian Open final after Novak Djokovic beat Nadal in five sets in 5 hours and 53 minutes in 2012.
Medvedev moved two sets up after prevailing in a tiebreak at the end of a long 84-minute second set, only for Nadal to stage a gutsy comeback.
Nadal was two points away from victory and serving for the championship at 5-4, but Medvedev wouldn’t go away and claim the break. But Nadal struck back with a second break, before serving for the most remarkable win of his career.
A forehand winner across the court earned Nadal the crucial break of serve in the decider, before he held off three break points from Medvedev in a 13-minute service game as he tried to close out the match.
Medvedev, who was aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win his second Grand Slam title at the very next major, made Nadal go the distance and win from two-sets down. Medvedev now joins Andy Murray among those who’ve lost the final at the next major tournament after their career breakthrough at the highest level.
It was just the fourth time Nadal has rallied from two sets down to win a best-of-five-set match, and the first since a fourth-round victory in 2007 at Wimbledon over Mikhail Youzhny and he is the first to do so in an Australian Open final since Roy Emerson in 1965.
The victory also makes him only the second man in the Open era after Djokovic to win each of the four titles at least twice, with Nadal finally adding a second Australia Open crown to the one he won in 2009.
Medvedev, the 26-year-old had also lost in the US Open final in 2019 to Nadal and here against Djokovic last year, had been exceptional for two sets, finding the perfect mix of aggression and control.
Had he taken any of three break points at 3-2 in the third set, things may well have panned out very differently, but couldn’t put Nadal away.
Nadal had faded physically in the third set of his matches against both Denis Shapovalov and Matteo Berrettini but, at 35 years old and playing in just his 10th match since early August, he found a way to outlast Medvedev.
Nadal was willed on by a crowd who cheered nearly as loudly for him as they had for Australian winner Ashleigh Barty on Saturday evening.
The contest was also briefly interrupted by a protester who jumped out of the crowd and onto the court during the ninth game of the second set holding a banner highlighting refugee detention – a campaign that received a global spotlight when Djokovic was detained and then deported ahead of the tournament.
Security guards quickly raced onto the court and tackled the intruder before carrying the person away.
The Spaniard was working so hard that a ball girl was called to mop up his sweat from the court in only the third game of the match but suddenly it was Medvedev looking weary mentally and physically in the last few sets.
Muddled shot selection contributed to a break for Nadal in the ninth game of the third set, and his use of drop shots conquered the fatigue he was feeling.
The Russian, though, could not hold his own serve, giving Nadal a second chance to serve for it, and this time he did not falter.
By The Numbers:
- Rafael Nadal – 21
- Roger Federer – 20
- Novak Djokovic – 20
- Pete Sampras – 14
- Roy Emerson – 12
- Rod Laver – 11
- Bjorn Borg – 11