By some means, the story of the Australian Open is now not Novak Djokovic — it is Rafael Nadal.
Within the midst of the drama that ensued within the lead as much as the yr’s first main event, which resulted in world No. 1 Djokovic being deported from Australia as a consequence of his unvaccinated standing, one among his chief rivals — Nadal — will look to make historical past in Sunday’s remaining.
Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer every have 20 grand slam wins, and if Nadal can overcome second-seeded Daniil Medvedev within the event championship, he — not Djokovic, who has gained six of the final 11 grand slams — would be the first to 21.
Medvedev is chasing a chunk of historical past of his personal after beating Stefanos Tsitispas 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a heated semifinal on Friday. The US Open champion is aiming to be the primary man within the Open period to win his second Grand Slam title on the subsequent main event.
Nadal superior to the ultimate in Australia for the sixth time with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win in a principally lopsided contest in opposition to seventh-seeded Matteo Berrettini within the first of the boys’s semifinals, and regardless of Medvedev reaching the top of his recreation, all eyes will probably be on Nadal, who hasn’t gained a grand slam aside from the French Open since he gained the 2019 US Open.
As well as, Nadal has not gained the Aussie Open since 2009, his solely profession victory on the yr’s first main.
Nadal arrived in Australia not realizing how lengthy he would final after months off the tour coping with a critical foot damage after which a bout with COVID-19. He skipped Wimbledon final season after shedding within the French Open semifinals to Djokovic, and didn’t play in any respect after August of final yr.
“Day by day has been a difficulty by way of issues on the foot. Doubts nonetheless right here … most likely for the remainder of my profession,” Nadal mentioned. “However for me it’s superb … [to] simply compete and play tennis on the excessive stage once more, dealing with crucial gamers of the world.”
Final month, he wasn’t even positive he’d be capable of return to the tour. However he gained a tune-up event in Melbourne and has taken six straight matches on the first grand slam occasion of the yr.
Yet another win and never solely will Nadal break the report of 20 main championships he shares with Federer and Djokovic, however he would additionally develop into simply the fourth man to win all 4 Grand Slam titles at the very least twice, a feat that even Federer has not completed.
“For me, it’s all concerning the Australian Open greater than anything,” Nadal mentioned in his on-court interview after his semifinal win. “I’ve been a little bit unfortunate [here] in my profession with some accidents. I performed some superb finals with good possibilities.”
He misplaced traditional five-set finals at Melbourne Park to Djokovic in 2012 and Federer in ’17. Nadal misplaced to Stan Wawrinka in 2014 and in opposition to Djokovic three years in the past.
“I really feel very fortunate that I gained as soon as,” he mentioned. “I by no means considered one other likelihood in 2022.”
Nadal was the one member of the so-called “Large 3” who had an opportunity to interrupt the impasse in Australia