#Rafa21 ~ a 22-year journey of grit, endurance, resilience and humility.
Respect, Rafa. Massive respect!
What we witnessed today was nothing short of a miracle spanning 324 minutes where a 35-year-old was clawing his way back like a 21-year-old to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat to claim his 21st Grand Slam.
At the end of the 3rd set which Nadal survived, I had tweeted out that “The difference between Rafa & Medvedev today has been how hard & long the former has had to play to win points (7 shots per winning rally) & how many times he has missed simple winning shots.
And of course some unbelievable back & forehand cross courts. Great to watch but hurts as a Rafa fan!”
Even as an ardent fan I had given up midway, given how Medvedev was covering ground and managing to return everything ~ something that usually Rafa is able to do to his opponents.
And just when all seemed lost, suddenly Rafa managed to search and dig deep within himself to produce a level of belief, grit, determination that helped him bounce back through a brand of fearless tennis.
Remember that before today, Nadal had never ever bounced back in a Grand Slam finals after being 0–2 down; in Grand Slam events, he has only done it in two Wimbledon matches in rounds 2 & 4, and outside of that, he had won the Madrid Masters in 2005 after being two sets down against Ljubicic!
Mind you, here, he was up against World #2, a high-quality player who is 10 years younger and was playing with high intensity.
A couple of months ago, the man was on crutches and tested Covid positive and was not even sure if he would play this tournament?!
Also am sure, at the back of his mind, the embarrassing 3 setter loss to Djoko in the 2019 finals and the hard-fought, 5 setter loss to Feder in the 2017 finals at the Rod Laver Arena must have been weighing heavy on his mind.
Or so one believes as a mere mortal!
It takes a very different sort of belief reservoir to emerge victorious from the position Nadal had landed himself in today ~ perhaps one reserved only for the ‘greatests’ of all time.
Whilst the debate continues about who is G.O.A.T, the manner in which Rafa won his 21st title, by winning the Australian Open after a 13-year hiatus and by completing the rare feat of winning all 4 slams at least twice in his career, he is right up there with the best of the best.
It is the way he has evolved and elevated his game as he has aged that is impressive, which was evident in this tournament where he had considerably increased the speed of his 1st serves and forehands to potentially reduce the length of shots that he has to rally for.
In the Open Era, he has reached a Grand Slam finals for the 15th season ~ a record he shares with Federer; in Grand Slam finals, only Sampras has a higher win percentage record than him (77.78% vs 72.42%) & amongst players with 100+ Grand Slam wins, Nadal’s win percentage of 88% is 2nd to Bjorg’s record of 89%
For me, Nadal will definitely be the best sporting role model in terms of how he believes, prepares, competes, and doesn’t give up till the end.
Most importantly, he plays the sport in the right spirit and has been a fabulous ambassador of the game, which is evident given the fan love he enjoys wherever he plays!
Growing up, my then favourite, Andre Agassi had beaten a certain Medvedev (Andriy) in 1999 to win a Career Slam at the French Open after being 2 sets down & today, my current & all-time favourite, Nadal beat another Medvedev (Daniil) at the Australian Open to win a double Career Slam after being two sets down.