Rafa Nadal has taken giant step towards GOAT status as Djokovic and Federer watch on

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Sport is lived in the moment and at this moment Rafa Nadal stands alone as the greatest man to have swung a tennis racket with his 21 Grand Slam titles. The final judgement, of course, will be made when the Holy Trinity are all retired but in becoming the first Australian Open finalist to win from two sets down – 13 years on from last winning the championship – Nadal stopped the clocks.

It has historically been a mistake to take Nadal into a sixth hour but you might have thought at 35 and after six months out of tennis that would no longer be the case.

Alas for poor old Daniil Medvedev, the villain of the Melbourne piece, Nadal showed his legendary stamina and resilience are still there in abundance.

It was a journey to the depths of his soul, exhausting to watch, let alone to play in. 

Five hours and 24 minutes of tennis at that intensity is a fight to the physical and mental edge. Nadal descended to the bottom of the well and when he reached it, fetched the drilling equipment and went even deeper. 

Medvedev played his part, taking on the crowd as well as Nadal but in the end was vanquished as the Spaniard put away a backhand volley, dropped his racquet and smiled in exhausted disbelief. 

If the 2008 Wimbledon final against Roger Federer was Nadal’s finest hour, Sunday’s epic – given the uncertainty over whether he would ever grace such a stage as little as six weeks ago – was not far short.

It was a victory which is likely to have seen off one rival in his quest to finish his career as the all-time greatest.

If Federer, at 40, returns in the summer after chronic knee trouble it is likely to be to wave a fond farewell rather than to add to his 20 Grand Slam titles.

That leaves Novak Djokovic.

Before this Australian Open most judges would have put their money on the Serb but a seismic three weeks Down Under on and off the court has altered the landscape.

The deported Djokovic, now effectively a tennis outcast by virtue of his vaccination status, may only have one chance each year to add to his 20 Slams – at Wimbledon. The triumphant Nadal, by contrast, will have the full set.

Nadal, with his pet Slam the French Open to come next, suddenly holds all the aces.



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