Nadal Reigns Supreme at the Australian Open


The 35-year-old Nadal has still been a consistent force on the tour (courtesy of Twitter).

The 2022 tennis year kicked off with the first grand slam in the form of the Australian Open. There was controversy even before a ball was served with men’s tennis star Novak Djokovic. Djokovic has never confirmed that he has been vaccinated against COVID-19. The Australian Open announced that everyone planning to attend  the tournament would have to be vaccinated against the virus, including all of the players. Djokovic then announced on Jan. 4, that he was going to play at the tournament and that he had received an exemption from the Australian government to travel, which was met with immediate backlash in Australia. 

When the world’s leading player landed, he was detained by the border force and was notified of Australia’s intention to remove him from the country. It was later revealed that the exemption was granted because  the tennis star tested positive for the virus in mid-December. Then, a judge reversed the government’s decision to cancel his visa, letting Djokovic enter the country. Australian Immigration Minister Alexander Hawke said that he might use his office’s discretionary powers to decide whether or not to allow Djokovic to stay in Australia, which he ultimately did. Djokovic appealed the decision on Jan. 16, but Australian judges upheld the decision to cancel his visa. 

This ended his hopes of winning his 10th Australian Open and his 21st Grand Slam title. He currently has 20 Grand Slam titles, an all time record shared with  Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The “big three,” as they are called, have dominated tennis for the past 15 or so years, with a combined 60 Grand Slam titles among them. Federer, despite being vaccinated, announced that he would not partake in the open while recovering from a knee operation. This meant that Nadal was the only member out of the three that was still going to play. 

Nadal started off the tournament well and breezed through the competition, not dropping a set until the third round. He then won all three sets in the fourth round before having a five set match against Denis Shapovalov in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, he beat Matteo Berrettini in four sets to make it to the final where he would face Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev is the reigning U.S. Open champion after he beat Djokovic in straight sets back in September, which at the time stopped Djokovic from securing not only his 21st Grand Slam, but completing  the calendar grand slam.

Medvedev started off the match just like he did in September and dominated the first set, winning it 6–2. Nadal started to fight back in the second set and at one point was leading it 5–3, but was unable to get that pivotal sixth game with Medvedev fighting back to make it 5–5. Then, both players won their serve games to make it 6–6 before Medvedev won  the tiebreaker 7–5, making  it two sets to none and putting himself one set away from winning his second Grand Slam title in a row, as well as again denying a 21st Grand Slam win. 

Nadal wasn’t going down without a fight. He is well known for his determination and his dedication to his game. Nadal won the third set 6–4 to force a fourth set where, once again, the former world number one showed why he is one of the greatest tennis players ever, winning the fourth set 6–4 to force a final fifth set. The last time that Nadal won a match from two sets down in a Grand Slam was back in 2007 in the fourth round of Wimbledon.

Nadal now had the momentum and the crowd behind him. He kept the pressure on Medvedev and eventually broke him to make it 5–3, one game away from making history. However, just like the second set, Medvedev fought back to make it 5–5 in the final set. Nadal put his foot down and made it 6–5, allowing him to serve for the championship. 

Four points later, game over. Nadal beat Medvedev 2–6, 5–7, 6–4, 6–4, 7–5 to win the 2022 Australian Open and his 21st Grand Slam title, breaking the tie among himself, Djokovic and Federer. What a way to make history coming from two sets down. When his back was against the wall and when he was on the brink of defeat, Nadal showed the world why he is one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Nadal now has two Australian Open victories, a record 13 French Open titles, two Wimbledon titles and four U.S. Open titles. The next grand slam is  the French Open in June. With 13 French Open championships under his belt, expect Nadal, the “King of Clay,”  to try to make it 22 Grand Slam titles.