Australian Open 2022: Rafael Nadal fights back from five sets to win grand slam 21

Headshot of Mitchell Woodcock
Mitchell WoodcockThe West Australian
Rafael Nadal won a historic 21st grand slam by defeating Daniil Medvedev in the final of the Australian Open.
Camera IconRafael Nadal won a historic 21st grand slam by defeating Daniil Medvedev in the final of the Australian Open. Credit: Andy Brownbill/AP

Rafael Nadal has won the race to 21 grand slam victories, fighting back from two sets down to defeat Daniil Medvedev and claim the Australian Open in an instant classic at Rod Laver Arena.

Medvedev looked as if he was going to cruise to consecutive grand slam victories, but Nadal had other ideas, showing age is no barrier as he went on to claim an incredible 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 win in a marathon match which lasted more than five hours.

The longer the match wore on the more Nadal, who was 10 years Medvedev’s senior, looked in control.

And as the world No.2 began to lose control on the scoreboard, so he did off the court as ball kids and a vocal, pro-Nadal crowd caused him to become visibly frustrated.

The 25-year-old was greeted by a chorus of boos from the heavy Nadal-backing crowd as soon as he stepped onto court, but was unfazed early.

Rafael Nadal is on a quest for a record 21st grand slam victory.
Camera IconRafael Nadal is on a quest for a record 21st grand slam victory. Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Medvedev broke twice in the first set to put the pressure on Nadal, who was making uncharacteristic unforced errors and couldn’t get his game going against Medvedev.

It was a grueling 84 minute set where the match looked as if it was going to be won.

Nadal was up 4-1 in the set after an early break as he tried to get back into the contest, but the 35-year-old’s continued struggles on first serve kept Medvedev in the game.

Daniil Medvedev plays a strong backhand shot.
Camera IconDaniil Medvedev plays a strong backhand shot. Credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Visibly drenched in sweat from the Melbourne heat, Nadal was overwhelmed by Medvedev’s all-round game as the Russian forced the set into a tiebreaker.

Medvedev changed up his style by going to the net and taking it to Nadal, with the risk paying off as he won the marathon set.

The Russian survived a break point in the opening game of the third set, which deflated Nadal who needed something to go his way early in the set.

Medvedev looked as if he had the championship win locked away when he was up three break points in the sixth game of the third set, but Nadal rallied to hold serve in a game that would become the turning point of the tournament.

Clearly frustrated, Medvedev turned his attention the ball kids and chair umpire in a moment which sparked the crowd to further get behind Nadal.

They were rewarded when Nadal finally broke Medvedev, opening up a chance for him to win the third set, one which he gladly took by holding serve.

All of a sudden Nadal looked the fresher of the two players and he broke early in the fourth to really bring himself back into the match and drive the final into a thrilling fifth set.

Medvedev, who began getting attention from the on-court physiotherapist, was more worried about the crowd noise than fighting back against Nadal and it was upsetting his momentum.

From here Nadal wound back the clock, displaying all the attributes which had made him one of the greatest of all time.

Daniil Medvedev is booed as he enters Rod Laver Arena for the Australian Open final against Rafael Nadal.
Camera IconDaniil Medvedev is booed as he enters Rod Laver Arena for the Australian Open final against Rafael Nadal. Credit: Hamish Blair/AP

Both players found a little extra at the start of the fifth set, but when Nadal held serve during a crucial 13-minute, sixth game you felt the win was near.

Nadal needed to just hold serve to grab the historic victory, but Medvedev broke back to increase the tension.

The sixth seed broke back instantly before holding firmly in the next to win the championship.

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