Record-breaking Rafael Nadal claims dramatic Australian Open triumph

Jonathan Davies in Australian Open 31 Jan 2022
Nadal claimed his second Australian Open title on Sunday (Dubreuil Corinne/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images)

Rafael Nadal became the most successful men’s singles player in Grand Slam history after beating Daniil Medvedev in a dramatic Australian Open final on Sunday.

The Spaniard moved ahead of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic by claiming the 21st Slam of his career after a thrilling encounter on Laver that lasted just under five-and-a-half hours.

Overturning a two-set deficit in the second-longest match in Australian Open history, Nadal became the first player to do so in a final at Melbourne Park since Roy Emerson in 1965 as he eventually prevailed 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.

Claiming his second title in Victoria – and first since 2009 – he also joined the absent Novak Djokovic as one of only two men to complete a double Career Grand Slam.

Nadal was appearing in his sixth Australian Open final, but had only gone on to lift the trophy once in five previous attempts.

The sixth seed made a slow start against 2021 runner-up Medvedev, who was looking to become the 27th different player to top the ATP rankings.

Indeed, the US Open champion reeled off five successive games from 2-1 down – breaking twice along the way – to take the opening set in commanding fashion.

Aiming to become the third male Russian world number one after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin, Medvedev then demonstrated wonderful determination in the second.

At 5-3 down after he was broken in the fourth game, the second seed rescued set point to break back and eventually prevailed in the tie-break to move to within touching distance of a second major title.

It had been 15 years since Nadal had successfully recovered from two sets down at a Slam; last doing so against Mikhail Youzhny at Wimbledon in 2007.

The Spaniard’s usually trusty forehand had generally deserted him, with several uncharacteristic errors creeping into his game.

Nevertheless, he broke in the ninth during the third set on the way to taking it 6-4 and halving the deficit.

The momentum was certainly with Nadal by the time of a third successive break that put him 3-2 to the good in set four.

Despite facing two break points in game eight, he crucially maintained serve to send the epic contest into a fifth and final set.

A trademark forehand down the line gave Nadal the advantage as he broke in the fifth game.

However, he squandered a tremendous opportunity at 5-4 up, losing four successive points from 30-0 as Medvedev dug deep to break back.

Nevertheless, Nadal returned the favour at the third attempt in the next game, before serving to love to complete an emotional and historic victory.

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