Australian OpenGrand Slams

Nadal Wins Record 21st Major in Australia

Rafael Nadal defeated Daniil Medvedev (2-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5) in an Australian Open classic. But what does this mean for the GOAT race?

On Sunday, Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open in an epic five-set match against Daniil Medvedev.

Nadal’s great victory at Melbourne Park means he stands alone in the men’s game, with a record twenty-one major count.

The Spaniard now appears dominant among the big three, with Roger Federer securing his twentieth at Melbourne Park in 2018, while Djokovic claimed his at Wimbledon last year.

The race for the first slam of 2022 tightened when top players faced each other in the second week. After equalising at two sets all, Denis Shapovalov came tantalisingly close to beating Nadal in the quarter-finals. But Nadal crushed his opponent with powerful serves and early forehands.

Rafa was up against Matteo Berrettini in the semi-finals, who could only scrape a set against Nadal’s consistency and astute shot-making.

Medvedev’s journey into the final, however, was more difficult. Felix Auger-Aliassime came storming out against Medvedev, achieving bold passing shots and winners early on. But after experiencing a two-set deficit, the Russian turned up the aggression and hit with ferocity. He eventually blasted his opponent away in the last two games of the match.

Medvedev then faced NextGen rival Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals, outfoxing him with great agility and tenacious defence.

Going into the tournament's last match, both players knew it would be a battle of physical exertion. Their duel at the 2019 US Open final went to five sets and was over four hours long.

The match lasted over five hours here in Melbourne, as Medvedev sipped ‘Pickle Juice’ to prevent cramp, and gallant ball boys mopped up Nadal’s sweat during changeovers.

In the first two sets, it looked as if Medvedev would close out a victory with ease. The Russian’s pinpoint accuracy on the backhand was close to the line and too far for Nadal to track down in the rallies.

Nadal also played more defensively, allowing Medvedev to come forward onto the baseline and dictate play. The backhand slices from Nadal floated gently towards Medvedev, who had time to run around and use his forehand, putting Nadal in further difficulty.

In the last point of the second set tiebreak, Nadal decided to come in towards a short ball and volley it away, but the shot sat up for Medvedev, who made a down the line passing shot with ease.  

Nadal mentally regrouped and sparkled with fresh energy at the start of set three. He stayed closer to the baseline for more aggressive shot-making and became better at the net, slicing volleys out of Medvedev’s reach.

He also did a better job of using the full width of the court, moving Medvedev laterally behind the line, making for an easy winner into open space, or eliciting a forced error. Nadal stepped-up the attack, painting the lines with inside-in forehands or going for quick one-two punches after a strong, flat first serve.

Nadal faced an early break-point in his first service game in the fourth set, but Medvedev failed to convert by netting a backhand groundstroke.

After surviving the game, Nadal seemed to relax and play with more tactical variation by adding drop shots. These had mixed results. Sometimes they caught Medvedev off-guard, but often the Russian stepped to them with alarming speed and racquet control to take the point from Nadal.

The fifth set went down to the wire with Nadal serving for the championship at 5-4 but could not hold. After slamming his own backhand into the net and a double fault, it was Medvedev’s chance to get the upper hand at 5-5.

The pressure perhaps got to Medvedev a little, as a stray forehand sailing long behind the baseline handed Nadal another break and chance to serve out the match.

After an ace on 30-0 gave Rafa three match points, his victory appeared inevitable. A high serve to Medvedev’s backhand was met by a mid-court response which Nadal pounced on, hitting the ball with his trademark whipped forehand, before ending the point with a spin-laden volley.

2022 Australian Open Final Highlights

Twenty-one major trophies is a feat to be celebrated in our sport.

Historically the grand slam tally between the big three has been used as a key metric to determine who is the greatest of all time.

But now, with Novak Djokovic rumoured to be making his first appearance of the season in Dubai, Nadal must keep on top form to prevent the Serb from equalling his success.

While younger players like Medvedev continue to grow in their own achievements on-court, with the French Open around the corner, perhaps this year will see Nadal and Djokovic battle once again for ultimate supremacy.

What do you think of Nadal’s victory – can he continue his form into the rest of the year? And will Djokovic repeat his Roland Garros win and level Nadal at twenty-one slams? Let me know in the comments below. 

Alex Nulliah

My name is Alex Nulliah and I am a tennis writer from Bath. I enjoy writing about tennis, International Relations and anything else which takes my interest. At Exeter University I took a BA in History and an MA in Applied Security Strategy. I love playing tennis.

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44 Comments

  1. Excellent match, Rafa and Daniil.
    Federer will always be my favourite watch, nothing can top AO17 for me, and it’s gutting he didn’t get #21 at Wimbledon 2019, but here you just have to congratulate Nadal on such an incredible achievement and a real match, not a one-sided knock-out.
    I think Djokovic still has some in him but Medvedev could quite easily step up to the plate and get more.

    1. Medvedev is actually very predictable, while many believe, he is unpredictable. And he is not flexible. Nothing moves him closer to the baseline on return, while Rafa, known for his love to stay at the wall on return, can also stand at the baseline, if this is working. Medvedev is not a high class tennis player but is smart enough to know this and has a big sense of humor, declaring occasionally to know, how bad his technique is but so long it works … only idiot would spend some hours more daily on practice court. Once players and coaches recognize it, Medvedev is done. He’s lazy worker in training (like LKyrgios) but has not a 10% of Kyrgios’ talent.

      1. “Once players and coaches recognize it, Medvedev is done” What a privilege brain, you should teach all the top players and coaches who are not able to see all the weaknesses
        you can see.

      2. This is just my opinion. I watched the match and I believe to have seen how Nadal was adapting his game to let his better skills prevail. I’m not trying to diminish Nadal’s achievement by telling how bad technique Medvedev has. He has another skills namely he knows “how to break these guys mentally”. Not so easy with breaking Nadal mentally and Nadal has a big repertoire of skills and today he implemented plan B in the second set (which almost worked) and then plan C, which worked until the end.
        You don’t need to take every ,my “statement” literally. Medvedev has bad technique but hie is not alone. Many have poor skills but are seen as “tricky” opponents.

    2. Anyone who thinks Medvedev has a bad technique has zero clue about high-level tennis or stroke mechanics. Zilch.

      Aesthetics are not techniques. So while his shots are not aesthetically pleasing to most people, the fundamentals are all there. You can’t win slams or reach the upper echelons of the game without them.

      1. Anyone? This includes Medvedev himself. He know, how bad his technique is and being a simple and honest guy, declares this even if nobody asks.
        He has found a niche and is exploring it. Which will have an abrupt end very soon and he knows this.
        “To break these guys mentally” is his mantra. On Friday he was just fighting for freedom against the umpire, while being right about coaching. He should be excluded from the tournament but nobody excludes the finalist to have walk-over in the final.
        Mark the date and check in a year, if Medvedev is still in Top100.

      2. Why don’t you point out, specifically why his technique is bad? Give us some stroke analysis. What does he do wrong?

        Has he specifically stated his technique is bad? Or was he just placating the low tennis IQ people who think because his forehand has an unaesthetic flourish, this means he has bad technique?

        Aesthetics mean zero in tennis in terms of ability to win matches. They might win fans but you need the fundamentals and Medvedev has them. Federer has both, which is why he has won over millions of fans worldwide.

      3. Thanks for teaching. I told before that I respect your expertise in tennis. I’m amateur and I’m allowed to have some opinion but not be interested in (or able to) give a professional analyze of particular strokes. But I guess, you can present sich an analysis. Feel free to do this. Others deserve some teaching too and I’m not the only one with low tennis IQ 😉
        And I’m not arguing about Medvedev’s tennis or overall IQ. I think, it’s just his best skill.
        I don’t know, what he was meaning when talking about his own bad technique. I know the difference between skills and aesthetics.
        I also recall his coach, Gilles Cervara, talking about Medvedev and calling him an “artist” in the meaning, even he never knows, what and why and how he will play his strokes, so I guess, coaching him is different. My impression is, he uses his height, his very good (but crazy) movement and mental strength and overall IQ to hit winners and certainly has the ability of not doing much errors. I have some tennis partners, who never have seen a coach or hit a wall. They play with instinct and some additionally with muscle power. And they defeat me regularly even if my technique is (IMO) a lot better. Maybe Medvedev’s specific skill is “how to win without learning any technique”, if instinct and IQ are good enough to win.

      4. You can’t just say someone has bad technique though when it’s based on nothing but hot air…

        The only thing ‘bad’ about Medvedev’s game is that his follow-through after making contact make his shots look unorthodox.

        There are very few guys with bad techniques at the top of the game. Gasquet was one, but only on his forehand side, poor preparation, racket face pointing towards the ground, wrist position means he never has any real racket lag then has to adjust at the last possible second prior to making contact. Lucky he had a brilliant backhand, decent serve, and moved pretty well. Plus very good hand-eye coordination.

        Another that springs to mind is Paolo Lorenzi, not exactly at the top of the game, but his serve was a crazy technique. But still had a good career.

        This video is a good explainer of why Meddy has got everything required – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SI7-4FupM28

        This guy is one of the best coaches out there. And in some ways, his game is similar to Meddy so he knows what he is talking about. If you watch his shots he looks to have a very funky technique especially on the forehand but it’s purely aesthetics and he could have forged a career on the ATP Tour with his serve + forehand combo for sure. Dunno how high of course as I have not seen his movement in his prime but he has wins against guys at college and Bundesliga level that went on to be top 100.

      5. Thank you, but this presentation is useless for me. The guy is talking a lot (which I can’t follow, auto-generated English captions are poor and I cannot read them and follow the video at the same time.
        I have seen lots of better presentations, including for Federer, showing shots or movements of the player in slow-motion with graphic explanation and not much of text.
        Because I’m not especially interested in Medvedev, I will stay mit my own view and at the same time believe you, he has perfect skills. And I will try to produce graphic analyzes myself, using recording software with available tools like slow-motion, changing angles a.s.o. Maybe I will find this way some regularities and understand better his technique.

      6. Just found some presentations telling me more, like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iRS2zV4jLk
        And there are more.
        It’s still “bad” technique, but let’s use another adjective like “unorthodox”, “sloppy”, “instinctive” a.s.o.
        I prefer to call it “bad” technique. Or maybe something very individual, so nobody could learn it because this technique suits just one guy on Earth. And lets him be successful.
        I don’t see him surviving with this technique for a long time. It seems for me to be overloading different parts of his body. Let’s see in a year or two.

      7. That analysis you posted is looking at nuances in individual technique which mean zero. It’s just a comparison video. And makes, IMO, some pretty weak points. Medvedev’s hand doesn’t drop below the service line? He’s 10cm taller. And even so, these things make zero difference. I mean that video tells us that a high racket prep leads to timing issues, yet Medvedev is best on fast surfaces, and hates clay. Look at Del Potro racket prep.

        The biggest mistake people make when looking at players is that they have no clue about the fundamentals for hitting a forehand. Which I don’t believe you know anything about either. You are still confusing “technique” with aesthetics even now. It is not a bad technique. It has individual aspects, like every player, but the fundamentals are all there.

        The only valid analysis is the one I posted from Nicola Aracic which you discarded as being too difficult to understand lol. This analysis is spot on because it looks at the fundamentals of shot production.

      8. I’m tired of hearing manipulations from you. I have not told, I cannot understand the content of your coaching genius, but I can’t follow spoken English. I have never had live contact with English natives and don’t plan to have. What’s so funny in that?
        This is why I looked for some presentation, which I can understand without understanding the spoken part.
        I can somehow understand tennis commentators or moderators, who know, they speak to international public and are speaking slow and clear enough.
        But I looked for info about that Aracic. Well, I would rather call him instructor, than coach. Could not find big names in tennis coached by him. And then I found his self-PR calling himself creator of “intuitive tennis”. This fits well into Medvedev’s “technique”. Medvedev must have learned intuitive tennis, hahaha. To learn intuitive tennis. Good one. I have seen tens of amateurs playing intuitive tennis. They had fun with it and that’s all. They don’t even had a bad technique. No technique at all. Intuitive tennis. No coach necessary. .
        Another one who fits well here is Cervara. All his coaching career is Medvedev (before professional hitting partner). That’s what I have imagined before. Cervara is not actually coaching Medvedev but hitting with him. Medvedev learned intuitive tennis via online lessons from Aracic. Medvedev is a genius (no kidding) but has no technique. Can we discuss his genius?

      9. Ah yes – it’s of course true for all 3 musketeers – Aracic, Cervara and Medvedev. They did follow your school “learning by doing”. Because tennis is a manual occupation, it’s very well possible. You only need to be genius. Hahaha
        Somehow only one of them made a big career. Cervara is only hitting or sitting, but Medvedev made him to be voted as “coach of the year” – don’t know, who were voting, but must have been a handful of idiots

      10. Ok you’ve really lifted the lid on Nicola Aracic there. 5 minutes googling and you’ve debunked him. He hasn’t coached someone in the top 10 so he’s clueless!

        But you still haven’t shared why Medvede’vs technique is bad. Like what specifically is he doing on the forehand that is bad technique, and why? And how should he fix it? What should he do differently?

        Give us some specifics. Not just “he looks unorthodox”.

      11. Just told you, I’m not interested in Medvedev.
        Yeah. Aracic didn’t coach anyone from Top10. Or from Top100. Or from Top1000. Maybe he coached you. Online. To play intuitive tennis.
        I have no more to say about Medvedev. But I told you something about him, which you seem to have missed. He must be genius. To have such success with such a bad technique (you can replace “bad” with “no” if you like – would fit better to definition of “intuitive tennis”) is very special.
        ATP must think about new award for best no.1 players with bad technique and even worse demaneour.

      12. I have called before Medvedevs technique “instinctive”, which was not meant negative. But maybe “intuitive” is better. Or both together. Producing a genius (no kidding). Somehow I’m amazed how can he produce such effective strokes without having learned basics.
        Maybe you didn’t hear Medvedev talking about his junior years, when he was very close to call it a day with tennis, because he never had patience to learn anything and was going crazy. His words. Don’t ask me for source. Find yourself if interested. Or ask him.

    3. I didn’t watch but decent win in 5 sets. A big asterisk next to the event when the 9-time champion was not allowed to play due to political reasons. (Please nobody chime in with an expert legal opinion that has never earned you a single cent in your life as to why the law was followed)

      I kinda think it shows a weakness in the game though, how can a guy with a debilitating foot injury come back and win a slam in such a physical fashion?! He barely played for 5 months!

      1. (Please nobody chime in with an expert legal opinion that has never earned you a single cent in your life as to why the law was followed) – acc. to your wish I’m not chiming in. No content in your comment so no reason to comment the comment

      2. I’m sorry, I can’t satisfy your expectations about how much I can earn with my linguistic and legal expertise, Somehow I’m earning so much I need since 50 years. Everything from my work. Maybe only idiots around me, paying for unprofessional work.
        Maybe I’m paid by Pfizer but I never read my bank statements?

  2. Amazing win by The King of Clay coming back from 2 sets down against a future multiple GS champion. What an epic match and day for tennis.

    2nd AO, 21st GS. Simply the GOAT.

    1. Simply the GOAT, with one more grand slam than Djokovic, and 13 of them on the dirt? Nadal hasn’t beaten Djokovic (or Federer!) off clay since 2013, and Novak has a lead in the head to head, not to mention far surpassing Nadal in weeks at #1, edging him in Masters events (where he’s won them all twice; Nadal isn’t even close to that), and having five year-end titles to Nadal’s zero.

      I’m not saying Nadal won’t end up the GOAT, but a one-slam difference and Olympic gold (which is largely meaningless in pro tennis anyway) are the only advantages Nadal has over Novak, and that certainly doesn’t make him a greater player, especially since it’s all but certain Djokovic will win his 21st (and probably many more). Djokovic’s resume is stronger than Nadal’s at the moment, stronger than Federer’s, and he has the best GOAT case even if they all stopped playing now. Maybe reserve your unbiased judgment until these guys have nothing more to accomplish.

      1. I see plenty of biased arguments on your comment:
        1) “and 13 of them on the dirt?” Not sure what the problem is. Novak won 12 on hardcourts. I would say that is an argument in favour of Nadal, imagine how many more GS would he have if he had the luck of having 2 GS tournaments on his favourite surface.
        2) “Nadal hasn’t beaten Djokovic (or Federer!) off clay since 2013, . Great argument if were talking about who had the better career since 2013, sorry the GOAT is not about that.”
        3) “and Novak has a lead in the head to head” It is also true that Nadal leads the head to head in GS matches and in GS finals.
        4) “edging him in Masters events (where he’s won them all twice; Nadal isn’t even close to that)” You are implying with this that they are not close on this category when Nadal has 36 (Novak 37). In fact you can argue that Nadal’s number is more impressive since he took part on a less number of them.
        5) “Olympic gold (which is largely meaningless in pro tennis anyway)” You might think you are still in the 80’s or 90’s. It is clear how important is for the players nowadays. Novak literally cried after losing in Rio for example and this is what he said before Tokyo: ‘Next to the Slams, the Olympics are the most important this year’.

        There is no doubt in my mind that if they were to end up their careers now, Nadal would be viewed as the GOAT. Having said that, this race if far from being over.

      2. While I don’t care much about the GOAT debate, your arguments, @Pablo, are all valid.
        The problematic thing is, we are using stats to crown 1 player the GOAT. Because of the complexity of the rivalry of the Big3, I would opt for 3 GOATS with no specific order, whatever the final count of anything.

      3. I kind of agree @PRF but I think that if Nadal and Nole can add 2 or 3 more GS to their resumes, the argument for Federer will be hard to make.

      4. I agree with PRf and also personally think the GOAT debate gets pointless when there are 3 such exceptional players in their own right. Despite being a Fedfan I can still see that. It gets to where their achievements are overlooked and downgraded in an effort to crown a favourite as GOAT.

      5. And there is another factor. They are actually not the same generation. So if someone really needs it for his good mood, a Fedfan may call Fed GOAT for his generation and both Rafa- and Nolefans may do the same for their heroes.
        Who prefers to take a broader look, given how long time they have spent on tour together, being all 3 great at the same time, should be happy with acknowledging the comparable greatness of all 3 and not looking too much into stats, because of the time offsets and missing objective criteria to compare different title wins directly. Every one being another individual story. If you try to assess, what was the value of every single title (given the form of rivals or their injuries, more or less difficult draws a.s.o.), you may lose from your sight what is really important. Everyone has his/her reasons to be the X-Fan but aren’t we all fans of a top tennis?

      6. What makes you think 13 slam titles on “dirt” is any less prestigious than any of the other majors? The French open is widely regarded as the toughest slam to win, by far. I’m not saying it deserves more weight but it’s status certainly doesn’t deserve to be denigrated, nor does Nadal’s incredible achievement. Now this AO win doesn’t make him the “GOAT” but it definitely makes him the all time slam leader for now. For context there are parellals between Nadal and Djokovic for their second slam at the Australian and french respectively out of six finals for each, both men are now part of a exclusive club (4) that have won the career slam twice. Both men achieved this from 2 sets down, and Rafa is the first man to do so in a AO final after laver on rod laver arena no less. One might argue Djokovic has a more balanced master’s 1000 record but that’s because there are more hard court master events in the year which is his favorite surface anyway. Considering Nadal was ready to say goodbye this year and that he achieved 21 in 29 finals vs 20 in 31 finals for both Federer and Djokovic makes this an extraordinary achievement no matter what else happens.

  3. All turned on that 3-2* game, in 3rd set when Meddy had 0-40 on Nadal serve. Made more and more poor choices shots as he unravelled. Less we say about the drop shots the better and he constantly let Nadal off the hook not hitting into the space when he had the opportunity. That said, you can never write off Nadal mentally and the longer it went you favoured Nadal altho how I just don’t know after nearly 6 months of no tennis. He did have a soft draw until Shapo who failed to put the reputation away and once in a final, he’s the fav despite the Meddy challenge. Meddy had a tougher draw and it gradually showed.
    Now and next gen continue to struggle in front of the big 3 reputations..that counts for far more than we know

    1. Yes, that was the turning point of the match right there. At 30-40 he missed a sitter of a backhand . Up to that point Nadal was barely holding. Credit to Nadal for holding up and waiting for Medvedev’s level to drop, and Nadal also increased his level especially with the backhand. By the 4th all these long matches had got to Medvedev and he was trying to end points quickly which is not his game, with serve and volleys, rushing the net, etc.

    2. Rafa only had an easier draw because it opened up. If the seeds had kept winning he would have had Karatesev after Kachanov and then Zerev. Agree semi-final became a lot easier after Novak deportation. Even so, if it had panned out as Kachanov-Karatesev-Zerev-Berretini-Medvedev all on the trot you could not call that easy.
      Can’t blame Rafa for Zerev imploding and Karatsev running out of gas after playing too much.

    3. Meddy didn’t have a tougher draw, sure FAA played a superb match and took him to the limit, but he was in full control of the match until Rafa changed tactics and dug in point by point. Rafa’s draw was far more tricky. Potential opponents were karatsev round 4, Zverev quarters, berretini semis. Yes he was fortunate he didn’t face karatsev early that would have been a huge physical test and honestly could have drained him before the quarters but shapovalov was just as dangerous as Zverev. He was definitely fortunate he played the 5th set against Shapo in the shade and was barely hanging on, but luck is always part of the equation no matter what.

  4. Without Djokovic being there it will never be truly counted. Australia robbed the tournament of a true battle for the greatest player so this victory will always have an asterix to the side that Djokovic was barred from entering.

  5. A big disappointment for me. Listening to Medvedev’s presser was sad. The Aussie crowd can be so rude. You think they were convicts or something!
    I don’t understand why Nadal didn’t thank the Australian government in his speech?

  6. An incredible match.Nadal had the easier draw and was very lucky Djokovic wasn’t there and Zrerev got knocked out early on(What the hell happened to him?)
    However Nadals great fighting spirit carried him through.Some wonderful tennis and I am sure that Medvedev will win more slams in the future.
    Federer will always be my favourite to watch,I hope we get to see him at Wimbledon one last time…

  7. This has to be one of the worst finals I’ve seen, if not the worst.
    I thought the choke from Zverev in 2020 would be insuperable, but this one makes a statement. The amount of amateur and conceptual errors from Medvedev is unbelievable to me, he’s almost the N1…
    Atrocius volleys and drop shots, or shots directly to Nadal’s hands when 90% of the court is an open field. The stubbornness to hit mediocre drop shots in sensible moments, specially when Daniil had the sensitivity of Karlovic to hit them. There was a time when Nadal was serving just 29% of first serves. And won anyway.

    Just disgusting. The weak era gets exposed once again, and in the most insufferable way. Roger must be the unluckiest player, missing all of these opportunities just because of being older.

  8. Nice summary. I did watch the final, but I didn’t feel like watching any of the other matches because of the way politics interfered with the tournament kind of left a sour taste in my mouth. I was rooting for Medvedev, but I suppose I have to give Nadal credit for pulling it off and coming up with some spectacular points in important moments. Looking at things from a larger perspective it’s hard to argue against Nadal deserving another trophy here considering how many times he’s made it to the final.

  9. A German biographer of Novak Djokovic says, Djokovbic will get vaccinated soon to be able to continue his tennis career (source: Austrian broadcaster ServusTV)

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