Rafael Nadal to Play Doubles with Roger Federer at Laver Cup

Rafael Nadal is partnering with his oldest rival…

The 36-year-old Spanish tennis superstar will join forces with Roger Federer as he plays the final professional match of his career at the Laver Cup in London on Friday.

Rafael NadalAt Thursday’s draw, it was confirmed that Federer will join Nadal for Team Europe against the American pair of Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock for Team World on Friday night.

Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, will then be replaced by Italy’s Matteo Berrettini for the rest of the event.

“It’s super special playing with Rafa,” Federer said in a news conference. “… To be able to do that one more time, I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful.”

Said Nadal: “Tomorrow is going to be a special thing. Difficult. Going to be difficult to handle everything, especially for Roger, without a doubt. But for me too. At the end, one of the most important players — if not the most important player — in my tennis career is leaving.”

Federer, 41, who announced last week that he’s retiring because of an ongoing right knee issue, had said Wednesday that playing alongside 22-time Slam champion Nadal would be a unique, fitting way to go out.

“For as long as we battled together, having had always this respect for one another, our families, coaching teams, for us as well to go through a career we both have had, come out the other side and have a nice relationship, is maybe a great message to tennis and beyond,” Federer said.

The three-day team event will begin Friday afternoon at The O2 Arena with two singles matches. Norwegian Casper Ruud, the runner-up at the US Open earlier this month, will play Sock in the opener before Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece takes on Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman.

The evening session will begin with former world No. 1 Andy Murray up against Alex de Minaur before Federer takes the court for the final time.

“I’m not sure if I can handle it all, but I’ll try,” Federer said Thursday about his sure-to-be-emotional on-court farewell.

Tiafoe, who beat Nadal en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open this month, deadpanned about the matchup, “Yeah, I’m just excited to play two up-and-comers tomorrow,” before adding, “It’s going to be iconic to be a part of that. Both guys are absolute legends.”

Federer and Nadal played each other in singles 40 times (Nadal won 26), including 14 Grand Slam matchups (Nadal won 10, going 6-3 in finals). Nadal came out on top in their classic 2008 Wimbledon final, considered by some the greatest match in history, while Federer won their last showdown, in the 2019 semifinals at the All England Club.

They also played one other doubles match together, defeating Jack Sock and Sam Querrey at the inaugural Laver Cup in 2017.

“To be part of this historic moment,” Nadal said about Friday, “is going to be something amazing, unforgettable.”

Carlos Alcaraz Wins US Open Title to Become Youngest Man to Lead ATP Rankings

Carlos Alcaraz has doubled up on his significant achievements…

The 19-year-old Spanish tennis player defeated Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 to claim his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, in his first appearance in a Grand Slam final no less.

Carlos AlcarazIn the process, Alcaraz is now the No. 1 player in men’s tennis.

Alcaraz used his combination of moxie and maturity to Ruud for the trophy at Flushing Meadows and become the youngest man to lead the ATP rankings.

“Well, this is something that I dreamed of since I was a kid,” said Alcaraz, whom folks of a certain age might still consider a kid. “It’s something I worked really, really hard [for]. It’s tough to talk right now. A lot of emotions.”

Appearing in his eighth major tournament and second at Flushing Meadows, Alcaraz has attracted plenty of attention as someone considered the next big thing in men’s tennis.

He’s the youngest man to win a major title since Rafael Nadal was the same age at the 2005 French Open, and the youngest at the US Open since 19-year-old Pete Sampras in 1990.

“He’s one of these few rare talents that comes up every now and then in sports. That’s what it seems like,” said Ruud, a 23-year-old from Norway. “Let’s see how his career develops, but it’s going all in the right direction.”

Alcaraz was serenaded by choruses of “Ole, Ole, Ole! Carlos!” that reverberated off the closed roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium — and he often motioned to the supportive spectators to get louder.

He only briefly showed signs of fatigue from having to get through three consecutive five-setters to reach the title match, something no one had done in New York in 30 years. He spent a total of 23 hours, 40 minutes on court in the tournament, the most by any men’s player during any one major tournament since the start of 2000.

Alcaraz went five sets against 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the fourth round, ending at 2:23 a.m. Tuesday; against Jannik Sinner in the quarterfinals, a 5-hour, 15-minute thriller that ended at 2:50 a.m. Friday after Alcaraz needed to save a match point; and against Frances Tiafoe in the semifinals.

“You have to give everything on court. You have to give everything you have inside. I worked really, really hard to earn it,” Alcaraz said after the final. “It’s not time to be tired.”

This was not a stroll to the finish, though.

Alcaraz dropped the second set and faced a pair of set points while down 6-5 in the third. But he erased each of those point-from-the-set opportunities for Ruud with the sorts of quick-reflex, soft-hand volleys he repeatedly displayed. And with help from a series of shanked shots by a tight-looking Ruud in the ensuing tiebreaker, Alcaraz surged to the end of that set.

“He just played too good on those points. We’ve seen it many times before: He steps up when he needs to,” Ruud said. ‘When it’s close, he pulls out great shots.”

One break in the fourth was all it took for Alcaraz to seal the victory in the only Grand Slam final between two players seeking both a first major championship and the top spot in the ATP’s computerized rankings, which date to 1973.

The winner was guaranteed to be first in Monday’s rankings; the loser was guaranteed to be second.

“Both Carlos and I, we knew what we were playing for. We knew what was at stake,” Ruud said. “I think it’s fitting. I’m disappointed, of course, that I’m not No. 1, but No. 2 is not too bad, either.”

He is now 0-2 in Slam finals after being runner-up to Nadal at the French Open in June.

Ruud stood way back near the wall to return serve, but also during the course of points, much more so than Alcaraz, who attacked when he could. Alcaraz went after Ruud’s weaker side, the backhand, and found success that way, especially while serving.

If nothing else, Ruud gets the sportsmanship award for conceding a point he knew he didn’t deserve. It came while he was trailing 4-3 in the first set; he raced forward to a short ball that bounced twice before Ruud’s racket touched it.

Play continued, and Alcaraz hesitated and then flubbed his response. But Ruud told the chair umpire what had happened, giving the point to Alcaraz, who gave his foe a thumbs-up and applauded right along with the spectators to acknowledge the move.

Alcaraz certainly seems to be a rare talent, possessing an enviable all-court game, a blend of groundstroke power with a willingness to push forward and close points with his volleying ability. He won 34 of 45 points when he went to the net Sunday. He is a threat while serving — he delivered 14 aces at up to 128 mph on Sunday — and returning, earning 11 break points, converting three.

Alcaraz, Ruud said, showed “incredible fighting spirit and will to win.”

Make no mistake: Ruud is no slouch, either. There’s a reason he is the youngest man since Nadal to get to two major finals in one season and managed to win a 55-shot point, the longest of the tournament, in the semifinals Friday.

But this was Alcaraz’s time to shine under the lights.

For context on the rankings, it is helpful to know that Novak Djokovic did not play at the US Open or Australian Open this year, unable to enter those countries because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, and did not receive any ranking boost for his Wimbledon championship because no points were on offer for anyone after the All England Club banned athletes from Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine.

Regardless of the circumstances, it is significant that Alcaraz is the first male teenager at No. 1. No one else did it. Not Nadal, not Djokovic, not Federer, not Sampras. No one.

When one last service winner glanced off Ruud’s frame, Alcaraz dropped to his back on the court, then rolled over onto his stomach, covering his face with his hands. Then he went into the stands for hugs with his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former No. 1 himself who won the French Open in 2003 and reached the final of that year’s US Open, and others, crying all the while.

You get to No. 1 for the first time only once. You win a first Grand Slam title only once. Many folks expect Alcaraz to be celebrating these sorts of feats for years to come.

Rafael Nadal Surpasses Martina Navratilova on All-Time Grand Slam Match Victories List

Rafael Nadal is moving on up…

The 36-year-old Spanish professional tennis player has advanced to the third round of Wimbledon for the 11th time after defeating Ricardas Berankis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 on Thursday.

Rafael NadalIt was Nadal’s 307th Grand Slam match win, advancing him past Martina Navratilova in fourth place on the all-time list, behind Roger Federer (369), Serena Williams (365) and Novak Djokovic (330).

“Not the best start honestly,” Nadal said of Thursday’s victory. “I finished playing well. The fourth set has been the level of tennis for me, important improvement. The rest of the things, I have room to improve.”

Nadal is looking for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title, and third Wimbledon trophy.

Rafael Nadal Defeats Casper Ruud to Claim 14th French Open Title

Rafael Nadal has officially reclaimed his King of Clay title…

The 36-year-old Spanish tennis star overwhelmed Casper Ruud in straight sets on Sunday to win his record-extending 14th French Open championship and 22nd Grand Slam title.

Rafael NadalBut he revealed after the match that he needed an injection to his ailing left foot just to be able to play.

Nadal told Eurosport after his 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory that he received an injection to numb his foot for Sunday’s final.

“The preparation was not ideal,” he said. “I had a stress fracture of the rib, then I have the foot [pain], which stays there all the time. I had my doctor here with me — I don’t know how to say in English what we did. We played with no feeling on the foot, we played with an injection in the nerve so the foot was asleep — that’s why I was able to play.”

During the trophy ceremony, Nadal thanked his family and support team for helping him, because otherwise, he would have needed to “retire much before.”

“I don’t know what can happen in the future,” Nadal told the crowd, “but I’m going to keep fighting to try to keep going.”

Nadal revealed during his media availability after the match that he’d been undergoing frequent injections into a nerve throughout the past two weeks at Roland Garros, serving to numb the pain in his foot caused by Mueller-Weiss syndrome. It is not a long-term solution to the chronic foot problem, and he is expected to visit a specialist next week to undergo a fresh procedure — a radiofrequency nerve ablation.

The success of that procedure will dictate whether he plays Wimbledon or not.

“I’m going to be in Wimbledon if my body is ready to be in Wimbledon,” Nadal said. “That’s it. Wimbledon is not a tournament that I want to miss. I think nobody want to miss Wimbledon. I love Wimbledon.”

He said if the procedure doesn’t work, he’ll have to decide if he’s ready to undergo a major surgery with no guarantee that it will be successful and might require a prolonged recovery time.

But he did confirm he would not go through the whole process of getting injections daily to get him through Wimbledon.

“Wimbledon is a priority, always [has] been a priority. If I am able to play with anti-inflammatories? Yes. To play with anaesthetic injections? No. I don’t want to put myself in that position again. Can happen once, but no, is not a philosophy of life that I want to follow.

“So let’s see. I am always a positive guy, and I always expect things going the right way. So let’s be confident, and let’s be positive. Then let’s see what’s going on.”

Nadal’s victory came two days after his 36th birthday and made him the oldest title winner in the history of the clay-court tournament. The oldest champion in tournament history had been Andres Gimeno, who was 34 when he won in 1972.

Ruud led 3-1 in the second set, a deficit that spurred Nadal to raise his level — he took the last 11 games. Nadal’s six games lost Sunday are tied for his second fewest in a major final. He has won six major finals in which he has conceded fewer than 10 games, breaking a tie with Richard Sears for the most by any man in tennis history.

Given his age, and of more concern, the chronic pain in his left foot that has been an off-and-on problem for years, Nadal has said repeatedly in recent days that he can never be sure whether each match at Court Philippe Chatrier might be his last.

He played crisply and cleanly, accumulating more than twice as many winners as Ruud, 37 to 16. Nadal also committed fewer unforced errors, making just 16 to Ruud’s 26.

When it ended with a down-the-line backhand from Nadal, he chucked his racket to the red clay he loves so much and covered his face with the taped-up fingers on both of his hands.

The Spanish star’s first triumph in Paris came in 2005 at age 19. No man or woman ever has won the singles trophy at any major event more times than his 14 in Paris. And no man has won more Grand Slam titles than Nadal.

He is two ahead of rivals Roger Federer, who hasn’t played in almost a year after a series of knee operations, and Novak Djokovic, who missed the Australian Open in January because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

 

For all that he has accomplished already, Nadal now has done something he never managed previously: He is halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam thanks to titles at the Australian Open and French Open in the same season.

Nadal improved to 14-0 in finals at Roland Garros and 112-3 overall at his favorite tournament.

“You are a true inspiration for me, for everyone who follows tennis around the world,” said Ruud, a 23-year-old from Norway participating in his first Grand Slam final, “so I hope — we all hope — that you will continue for some more time.”

When the players met at the net for the prematch coin toss, the first chants of “Ra-fa! Ra-fa!” rang out in the 15,000-seat stadium. There would be more such choruses. Ruud heard his own support, especially when he briefly went up in the second set, with some in the stands marking points he won with drawn-out pronouncements of his last name, “Ruuuuuuud,” that sounded as if they might be booing.

Ruud considers Nadal his idol. He recalls watching all of Nadal’s past finals in Paris on TV. He has trained at Nadal’s tennis academy in Mallorca.

They have played countless practice sets together there with nothing more at stake than bragging rights. Nadal usually won those, and Ruud joked the other day that’s because he was trying to be a polite guest.

The two had never met in a real match until Sunday, when a championship, money, ranking points, prestige and a piece of history were on the line. And Nadal demonstrated, as he has so often, why he’s known as the King of Clay — and among the game’s greatest ever.

“We all know what a champion you are, and today I got to feel how it is to play against you in a final. And it’s not easy,” Ruud said. “I’m not the first victim. I know that there have been many before.”

Nadal can now place this latest Coupe des Mousquetaires alongside the trophies he gathered at Roland Garros from 2005 to ’08, 2010 to ’14 and 2017 to ’20. He has also won the US Open four times and the Australian Open and Wimbledon twice apiece.

“For me, personally, it’s very difficult to describe the feelings that I have,” Nadal said. “It’s something that I, for sure, never believed — to be here at 36, being competitive again, playing in the most favorite court of my career, one more time in the final. It means a lot to me. Means everything.”

Rafael Nadal Edges Past Novak Djokovic to Reach French Open Semifinals

Rafael Nadal is one step closer to reclaiming his throne…

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis star, known as the King of Clay, claimed a quarterfinal victory over longtime rival Novak Djokovic that began in May and ended in June at Roland Garros.

Rafael NadalWith a mix of brilliant shot-making and his trademark resilience, Nadal got past the top-seeded defending French Open champion Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) to move a step closer to his 14th championship at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament and what would be a 22nd major trophy overall, adding to records that he already owns.

“One of those magic nights for me,” Nadal said.

The match began a little past 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, and concluded more than four hours later, after 1 a.m. Wednesday, June 1.

The bracket said this was a quarterfinal, but it felt like a final — from the quality of play to the quality of effort, from the anticipation that preceded it to the atmosphere that enveloped it.

The only missing ingredient: There was no trophy handed to the winner.

Nadal turns 36 on Friday, when he’ll face third-seeded Alexander Zverev in the semifinals. When the subject of Nadal’s future was brought up during his on-court interview, he smiled.

“See you, by the way, in two days,” Nadal said. “That’s the only thing that I can say.”

It’ll be difficult for any match the rest of the way to live up to this one.

“I lost to a better player today,” said Djokovic, who had won 22 sets in a row until the 49-minute opener against Nadal. “Had my chances. Didn’t use them. That’s it.”

This showdown was their 59th, more than any other two men have played against each other in the Open era. Nadal narrowed Djokovic’s series lead to 30-29 while improving to 8-2 against his rival at Roland Garros.

Nadal is now 110-3 for his career at the place. Two of those losses came against Djokovic, including in last year’s semifinals. This time, Nadal made sure Djokovic remains behind him in the Slam count with 20. Nadal broke their three-way tie with Roger Federer at that number by capturing the Australian Open in January, when Djokovic was not able to play because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Carlos Alcaraz Defeats Defending Champion Hubert Hurkacz to Reach Miami Open Final

Carlos Alcaraz is one win away from history…

The 18-year-old Spanish tennis player ended the 10-match tournament winning streak of defending champion Hubert Hurkacz to advance to the final at the Miami Open on Friday evening to reach his first ATP Masters 1000.

Carlos AlcarazWith his 7-6(5), 7-6(2) victory, Alcaraz has reached the biggest final of his young career, going one better than his semifinal run at Indian Wells two weeks ago.

“I have a lot of emotions right now. It’s something that you dream of when you are a child,” said Alcaraz, who is one win away from becoming the youngest champion in the tournament’s 37-year history. “It’s really good to be in the final here in Miami. I love playing here. The crowd is amazing. I’m going to approach the final like a first round, trying to mask the nerves. I’m going to enjoy it, it’s going to be a great final.”

Alcaraz trailed 3/5 in the opening-set tiebreak, but repeated his heroics from Thursday’s quarterfinal win against Miomir Kecmanovic by winning four straight points to close it out.

After erasing two break points at 5-all in the second set — taking his tournament total to 15 of 17 break points saved — Alcaraz controlled the second tie-break with help from some untimely Hurkacz errors. A drop shot at 5/2 set up match point, and a dipping pass attempt forced a volley into the net to close out the match.

“I couldn’t return his serves, but I knew that the match was going to be long sets like it was, 7-6, 7-6,” said Alcaraz, who dropped deep with his return positioning, in contrast to his previous matches. “At the beginning, I saw that I couldn’t return. I thought we were going to play a lot of tiebreaks… A little bit different [than my previous matches] with his serve, but it’s a great win for me.”

Hurkacz tallied one more winner than Alcaraz on the night, 23 to 22, but gave up that advantage by committing 37 unforced errors in the match. Early in the second set, the frustrated Pole shouted to his coach: “I can’t do my backhand.”

But this was far from a standard matchup of baseline blasts as both men attacked the net with regularity, a total of 47 times between them, with both posting a 70 per cent win rate. Alcaraz also hit 16 drop shots in the match, winning 11 of those points (69 per cent).

In a match that did not see a break of serve, both men saved three break points, with each coming up clutch to fight off a pair when serving at 5-all. After failing to convert late in the first, Alcaraz provided a moment of good sportsmanship by offering to replay a point as he served at 5-6, 30/0 after an incorrect “not up” call. Hurkacz applauded the gesture but was not able to get a look in the service game.

“Definitely he’s playing insane for his age,” Hurkacz said following the match. “It’s really incredible how he plays, how he competes… He has an amazing career in front of him. It’s crazy how good he plays.”

By reaching the final, Alcaraz moves up to third place in the ATP Race to Turin, with an opportunity to move up to second with the title. The World No. 16 improves to 6-6 against the Top 10, having won the opening set in all six of his victories and lost the opener in all six defeats

He’ll face Casper Ruud in the Sunday’s final following his 6-4, 6-1 win over Francisco Cerundolo.

Alcaraz is hoping to become the third-youngest man to win a title at this level, behind only Michael Chang (1990, Toronto) and Rafael Nadal (2005, Monte Carlo). He’s also the second-youngest finalist in Miami history, behind only Nadal, who lost the 2005 final to Roger Federer.

Alcaraz is projected to move up to a career-high of No. 12 in the ATP Rankings with his final run, and will reach No. 11 with the title.

Rafael Nadal Defeats Cameron Norrie to Claim Mexican Open Title

Rafael Nadal continues his winning ways in the New Year…

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis star defeated Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday to win the Mexican Open and extend his career-best start for a season to 15-0 as he won his 91st ATP title.

Rafael NadalNadal, who won his third title in 2022, including the Australian Open for his record 21st Grand Slam singles title, is three victories from tying Ivan Lendl‘s total of 94 for third place for most championships in the Open Era. Jimmy Connors leads with 109 and Roger Federer has 103.

“At the end of the day I’ve always said that this kind of records needs to be measured once your career is over,” Nadal said. “Today the most important thing is that I have won a prestigious tournament.”

The Mexican Open is an ATP 500-level tournament played on hard courts, and this year four of the top-five players in the world started in the draw: Daniil Medvedev (2), Alexander Zverev (3), Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) and Nadal (5).

Medvedev, who’ll rise to No. 1 in the rankings on Monday, lost to Nadal in the semifinals. Zverev was thrown out of the tournament for violently smashing his racket on the umpire’s chair moments after losing a doubles match, and Tsitsipas lost to Norrie in the other semifinal.

“[Acapulco] is a tournament that started with five of the top six players in the world,” Nadal said. “It was complicated, and I ended up taking the victory. Looking back, a few weeks ago this would have looked impossible. It’s amazing how things can change in such a short span, from not being able to practice and now to be where I am today.”

Nadal won for the fourth time in Acapulco (2005, 2013 and 2020), where he is a fan favorite.

He won his first title in Mexico when he was 18 and holds the record for the youngest winner in tournament history as well as the oldest at 35.

“It’s been a long career,” Nadal said. “The first time I came here, everything was new for me, and after all these years you start to appreciate more each victory than when you were an 18-year-old boy.”

Nadal said that his body is holding up well and that he is eager to play at Indian Wells, California, in a couple of weeks.

Norrie, who was on an eight-game winning streak, was trying to become the first British man to win the Mexican Open in its 29-year history.

“I played against him before, so I had an idea on how to play him, but I gave him a couple of easy points and he gave me nothing,” said Norrie. “It was little bit of lack of concentration, and I gave him the match.”

At the start of the match, Nadal had a break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and went on to win the first set in 51 minutes.

In the second set, Nadal had a break in the first game, but Norrie returned it and appeared to be back into the match, but the Spaniard added breaks in the fifth and seventh games to take home the trophy.

Rafael Nadal Rallies to Win Australian Open & Claim Men’s Record 21st Grand Slam Title

Life is grand for Rafael Nadal

The 35-year-old Spanish professional tennis player, a renowned right-to-the-end competitor, fought back from two sets down defeat Daniil Medvedev to win the Australian Open and claim his record 21st Grand Slam title.

Rafael Nadal

With his dramatic 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 comeback win that lasted 5 hours, 24 minutes, Nadal set the men’s record for most Grand Slam singles titles.

Nadal now has one more major title than Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, his long-time rivals in the so-called Big Three.

He was the only one of the three who had a chance to claim the record solo in Australia.

Federer is still recovering from knee surgery, and Djokovic was deported from Australia on the eve of the tournament because he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

It’s all history now that Nadal has become just the fourth man to win all four of the sport’s major titles at least twice.

“I was repeating to myself during the whole match, ‘I lost a lot of times here having chances, sometimes I was a little bit unlucky,'” Nadal said. “I just wanted to keep believing until the end.”

“Tonight has been unforgettable. I feel very lucky.”

Nadal was broken when serving for the championship for the first time at 5-4 in the fifth set, but he made no mistake two games later, converting the first of his championship points.

Taking everything into account, “the scenario, the momentum,” he said, “without a doubt probably the biggest comeback of my tennis career.

He added, “The most unexpected. And most surprising, I think, for everyone.”

Federer and Djokovic were watching, from a distance, and both used social media messages to offer congratulations to Nadal for breaking their three-way tie atop the men’s Grand Slam standings.

Nadal and Medvedev packed a lot of drama into the final that started Sunday night, was delayed in the 84-minute second set when a human rights activist jumped onto the court and finished close to 1:15 a.m.

Nadal was serving for the second set but was broken in that game. Then Medvedev had his moments to break again in the third set but admitted he got tight.

“Should have done better. Should have hit a winner,” Medvedev said. “Maybe would have won the match.”

“Tactically nothing changed,” he added, “but Rafa stepped up.”

Indeed, he did. And at 1:30 a.m. he stepped up onto the podium to give his victory speech.

“Good evening. No, good morning!” Nadal joked, looking at his watch.

In the background, Rod Laver, the aging Australian tennis great for whom Melbourne Park‘s main stadium is named, was holding up his smartphone to capture the scenes. A woman nearby held up a sign that stated: “Rafa is the GOAT.”

For now, in terms of men’s major titles at least, Nadal is the Greatest Of All Time.

Nadal praised Medvedev for the part he played in what eventually became the second-longest Australian Open final ever. Nadal’s loss to Djokovic a decade ago lasted 5:53.

Nadal’s 21st major title was even more remarkable considering he had only two matches under his belt in the second half of 2021 because he was sidelined with a chronic foot injury. He also overcame a bout of COVID-19.

“For me, it’s just amazing,” he said, adding that only six weeks ago, “I didn’t know if I’d be able to play on the tour again.”

Nadal won his first Australian Open title in 2009 and then lost four other finals here. His conversion rate in major finals is now 21 out of 29.

Medvedev, who was aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win his first two Grand Slam titles back-to-back, was ever-so-close to spoiling another 21st celebration.

Djokovic was chasing the same record at the US Open last year, and a calendar-year Grand Slam, when Medvedev beat him in straight sets in the final.

Federer also had his chance at 21, but Djokovic stopped that after saving match points en route to winning the 2019 Wimbledon final.

For Nadal, this was just the fourth time — and first since 2007 — he has rallied from two sets down to win a best-of-five-set match. It’s the first time it has happened at the Australian Open final since 1965.

Rafael Nadal Defeats Maxime Cressy for Melbourne Crown in Return to Competitive Play After Nagging Foot Injury

Make that 19 in a row for Rafael Nadal

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis star defeated American Maxime Cressy, 7-6 (6), 6-3 at the Melbourne Summer Set 1 on Sunday in one of six tournaments this week ahead of the Australian Open, which begins January 17.

Rafael Nadal

In the process, Nadal has added another title to his illustrious career, capturing at least one ATP title for the 19th consecutive year.

“Very happy to start the season with a title … and from where we are coming, it’s very special,” said Nadal. “Tonight I think I played my best match so far since I arrived here, without a doubt, against a very difficult player.”

It was Nadal’s successful return to competition from a niggling foot injury that had kept him out for nearly four months.

It’s Nadal’s 89th career title.

Nadal saved a set point in the first-set tie-break and fought back from a break down in the second set, before closing out the match in one hour, 44 minutes.

Nadal participated in an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi last month but tested positive for COVID-19 on his return, further affecting his preparation for the Australian Open where he’s aiming for his second title — and first since 2009.

“If we put everything together and analyze all the things that I went through the last five months, including the COVID after Abu Dhabi, of course I am happy,” he added.

“Of course there have been still doubts, but even more doubts during a lot of months, if I will be able to be back.”

But Nadal insisted there was still much to be done as he looks to regain match sharpness and add to his tally of 20 majors, a record he currently shares with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

“Well, exactly where I would like to be is being 100 percent healthy … playing until the end of the season and without coming back after five, six months outside of the competition … I have a lot of things to keep improving … and I’m going to try hard.”

Pablo Andujar Comes Back from Two-Sets Down to Upset Dominic Thiem in French Open First Round

Pablo Andujar is celebrating a massive upset…

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis player defeated reigning US Open champion and two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round.

Pablo Andujar

Andujar, ranked 68th in the workd, came back from two sets down to claim the Roland Garros win against the fourth-seeded Austrian.

It marked the first time in eight appearances at the clay-court Grand Slam that Thiem lost his opening match.

Andujar also defeated Roger Federer in Geneva earlier this month. It’s the first time in his career that Andujar has come back to win after losing the opening two sets.

Thiem, who lost the 2018 and 2019 finals to Rafael Nadal, dropped to 11-9 in five-set matches.