Saturday, May 21, 2022

21 or 2/2? Nadal, Medvedev chase history at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia ( Associated Press) — Since Wimbledon ended last July, there has been much talk about the first man to win 21 Grand Slam titles in tennis.

The focus is almost entirely on Novak Djokovic’s dialect; Almost none on Rafael Nadal.

With the first Grand Slam title of 2022 scheduled for Sunday, it is Nadal who is just one win away.

He will play the Australian Open final against US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who is aiming for one major title after another and a piece of his own, though small, history.

So long, so many months away from Nadal’s tour, and so much drama surrounding Djokovic’s relegation, the night before his Australian Open title defense begins, is what makes the race to 21 so compelling.

Nadal, only last month, was not even sure if he would arrive in Australia after a long frustrating and intensive rehabilitation period over his leg injury, which may never fully recover, and COVID- A match of 19.

Nadal said, ‘For me it matters more than the Australian Open. “To be very honest, a chance for me to play tennis is more important than winning 21, no?”

Nadal is tied for the record, 20, with the absent Djokovic – the nine-time Australian Open champion, who had his visa revoked for failing to meet the country’s strict COVID-19 requirements – and Roger Federer, who has just He is also recovering from surgery on his right knee.

Nadal reached 20 in 2020 with his French Open title. Federer, now 40, has been stuck on 20 since winning the 2018 Australian title. Djokovic moved up from 17th to 20th in 2021 with titles at Australia, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. She had a winning streak from making it to 21 – and completing a calendar-year Grand Slam – until she lost to Medvedev in the final of the US Open.

“Yeah, I’m going to play against a great player again. And what’s fun, I’m going to play for his 21st Slam again,” Medvedev told on-court TV after his heated semifinal win over Stefanos Tsitsipas Said in the interview. “I think Rafa was watching (US Open final) near TV. . . I don’t know what he was cheering for. I think Novak must have been watching it too!”

Medvedev lost to Nadal in five sets in the 2019 US Open final – his first at a Grand Slam – and lost to Djokovic in straight sets in the final of the 2021 Australian Open, before defeating the Serbian star in straight sets in New York in September.

Any debate about which player of the Big Three would be considered the greatest is not a concern for him.

“It’s a very good rivalry between them,” said Medvedev. “I’ll be honest . . . I’m not going for the 21st, nor am I trying to break these records. I’m going for my second.

“I know what Rafa was going for, I knew what Novak was going for. I’m not going to say ‘Oh yeah, I’m trying not to hear about that.’ But it’s his kind of thing, not mine. I’m just there to try and win the final.”

Nadal is also trying to block out all the noise. He has said more than once that the Australian Open is his primary focus, and that the work and meaning of his life will not be seen by the man who ultimately ends up with the most major titles.

Nothing has changed about his extreme competitiveness on the court, which, he says, is embedded in his DNA. But he is now more aware of being grateful to be back on tour when he felt a foot problem could prematurely end his tennis career.

“Because it makes me happier in terms of normal life .. to be able to do the things I love doing more than to win another Grand Slam,” he said. “Life, it’s about happiness and what makes me happy. It’s just about getting a chance to do what I love to do.”

Medvedev got angry at the chair umpire during the change in the semifinals, and then regained his balance to defeat Tsitsipas.

He described his race in Australia as “emotional”, which included dealing with a hostile crowd in his second-round win over Nick Kyrgios, and Felix Auger-Aliasim to save a match point and rally by two sets. Almost defeated in one. Five-hour quarterfinal.

After defeating Denis Shapovalov in the long quarterfinals, Nadal recorded a relatively stress-free 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over seventh-seeded Matteo Berrettini, who defeated Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon final. had lost to. Nadal left Wimbledon after losing to Djokovic in the semi-finals of the French Open and did not play at all after August.

Nadal also shed tears after securing a place in the Grand Slam final for the 29th time.

Since winning the title here in 2009, he lost to Djokovic in ’12’ and Federer five years later in the classic five-set final. His other defeats came to Stan Wawrinka (2014) and Djokovic (2019).

“I’ve been a little unlucky (here) in my career with a few injuries (and) I played some amazing finals with good chances,” he said. “I feel very lucky that I won once. I never thought of another chance in 2022.”


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