Since I can remember Rafael Nadal has been my tennis hero. As a young lefthanded tennis player there were few professional players to look up to that played using a similar style and technique. Not only is Nadal incredibly talented, having arguably the most spectacular flare in tennis history, but he is also an excellent role model: hard-working, charismatic, and respectful.
Sunday 30th January marked a day in history, the day that Nadal won the 2022 Australian Open and a record 21st Grand Slam title. This places him as the greatest tennis player of all time.
The 2022 Australian Open began amid controversy, as number one seed Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia due to his vaccination status. This left Nadal, the sixth seed in the tournament, as the only of his rivals capable of securing a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam victory. This feat initially appeared unlikely, coming from a five-month layoff due to a recurring foot injury. Scepticism over his ability to succeed was supported by betting companies giving odds overwhelmingly in Medvedev’s favour going into the final. They clearly did not take into consideration Nadal’s tenacity, relentless drive, and quite frankly, inconceivable talent.
Medvedev tested him to the limit, playing remarkable tennis and putting himself in a favourable position as he took the first two sets of the match. However, in the third set, as Medvedev seemed to tire, Nadal appeared re-energised. Whilst Medvedev constantly put him under pressure, changing his initial style by utilising the drop shot, Nadal responded with great athleticism, playing countless passing shots to take the points. The third set marked a change in the momentum of the match, seeing Nadal completely dominant, which before had seemed an unlikely shift. The crowd quickly picked up, roaring in support as Nadal took the third set 6-4 and stormed on to take the next two sets and secure victory.
For over a decade, fans have been blessed to witness three of the greatest tennis players of all time and until the Australian Open they have shared the record for most Grand Slam victories. Nadal’s win makes history, taking him one step above rivals, Djokovic and Federer. However, whilst undoubtedly disappointed the two showed their class through their social media messages which congratulated Nadal’s accomplishment.
The next Grand Slam is the Roland Garros French Open, 22nd-6th June 2022. This is the tournament that Nadal has dominated throughout his career, winning thirteen of his titles here. It will be exciting to see if, at the next open, he can consolidate the position he currently holds as the greatest of all time.
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