21 or 2/2? Nadal, Medvedev chase history at Australian Open

Jan 28, 2022, 10:22 PM | Updated: 11:23 pm
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Matteo Berrettini of Italy in their semifinal matc...

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Matteo Berrettini of Italy in their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

(AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Since Wimbledon ended last July, there’s been so much discussion in tennis about the first man to win 21 Grand Slam titles.

The focus has been almost entirely on Novak Djokovic’s bid; almost none of it on Rafael Nadal.

With the first Grand Slam title of 2022 to be determined Sunday, it’s Nadal who is just one win away.

He’ll play the Australian Open final against U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who is aiming for back-to-back major titles and his own, albeit smaller, piece of history.

So long in the making, so many months off the tour for Nadal, and so much drama around Djokovic’s deportation the night before his Australian Open title defense was due to begin, makes the race for 21 so much more compelling.

Nadal, only last month, wasn’t even sure if he’d get to Australia after long hours of frustrating and intensive rehabilitation on his foot injury that can never be fully fixed, and a bout of COVID-19.

“For me, it’s all about the Australian Open more than anything else,” Nadal said. “Being very honest, for me its much more important to have the chance to play tennis than win the 21, no?”

Nadal is tied for the record, 20, with the absent Djokovic — a nine-time Australian Open champion who had his visa revoked for failing to meet the country’s strict COVID-19 requirements — and Roger Federer, who still recovering from right knee surgery.

Nadal moved to 20 with his French Open title in 2020. Federer, now 40, has been stuck on 20 since winning the 2018 Australian title. Djokovic moved from 17 to 20 with titles in Australia, Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2021. He was one win victory from making it to 21 — and completing a calendar-year Grand Slam — until he lost to Medvedev in the U.S. Open final.

“Yeah, I’m going to play again against one of the greatest. And what’s funny, again, I’m going to play somebody going for their 21st Slam,” Medvedev said in an on-court TV interview after his heated semifinal win over Stefanos Tsitsipas. “I guess Rafa was watching (the U.S. Open final) near the TV . . . I don’t know who he was cheering for. I think Novak will be watching this one, also!”

Medvedev lost to Nadal in five sets in the 2019 U.S. Open final — his first at a Grand Slam — and lost to Djokovic in straight sets in the 2021 Australian Open final, before beating the Serbian star in straight sets at New York in September.

Any debate about which of the Big Three players will be considered the greatest of all isn’t a concern for him.

“It’s great rivalry between them,” Medvedev said. “I’ll be honest . . . It’s not me going for the 21st, not me trying to break these records. I’m going for my second one.

“I know what Rafa is going for, I knew what Novak was going for. I’m not going to say ‘Oh, yeah, I am trying not to listen about this.’ But it’s kind of their thing, not mine. I’m just there to try to win the final.”

Nadal is also trying to block out all the noise. He’s said more than once that this Australian Open is his primary focus, and his life’s work and meaning ultimately won’t be overshadowed by who finishes up with the most major titles.

He hasn’t changed anything about his ultra competitiveness on the court which, he says, is embedded in his DNA. But he’s more conscious now of being grateful for being back on tour after times when he thought a foot problem might prematurely end his tennis career.

“Because that’s makes me more happy in terms of general life .. to be able to do the thing that I like to do more than achieving another Grand Slam,” he said. “Life, it’s about happiness and what make me happy. It’s about just having the chance to do what I like to do.”

Medvedev had an angry outburst at a chair umpire during a changeover in the semifinals, and then recovered his composure to beat Tsitispas.

He described as “emotional” his run in Australia, which included dealing with a hostile crowd in his second-round win over Nick Kyrgios, and having to save a match point and rally from two sets down to beat Felix Auger-Aliassime in a nearly five-hour quarterfinal.

After defeating Denis Shapovalov in a long quarterfinal, Nadal had a comparatively stress-free 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win over seventh-seeded Matteo Berrettini, who lost the Wimbledon final to Djokovic last year. Nadal skipped Wimbledon after losing to Djokovic in the French Open semifinals, and he didn’t play at all after August.

Nadal even shed tears after confirming a spot in a Grand Slam final for the 29th time.

Since winning the title here in 2009, he lost in classic five-set finals to Djokovic in ’12 and Federer five years later. His other losses were to Stan Wawrinka (2014) and Djokovic (2019).

“I have been a little unlucky (here) in my career with some injuries (and) I played some amazing finals with good chances,” he said. “I feel very lucky that I won once. I never thought about another chance in 2022.”

___

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

South Carolina Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, talks about a total ban on abortion he has proposed ...
Associated Press

Major abortion law changes unlikely in S. Carolina after Roe

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Whether conservative South Carolina changes its abortion laws at all in the wake of this year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision may be decided by divided conservatives Tuesday in the state House. South Carolina for decades was at the forefront of passing more restrictive abortion laws that challenged Roe v. Wade. before […]
22 hours ago
Adismarys Abreu, 16, poses for a photo at her home, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, in Miami. Abreu had bee...
Associated Press

Teen interest in long-lasting birth control soars after Roe

Sixteen-year-old Adismarys Abreu had been discussing a long-lasting birth control implant with her mother for about a year as a potential solution to increasing menstrual pain. Then Roe v. Wade was overturned, and Abreu joined the throng of teens rushing to their doctors as states began to ban or severely limit abortion. “I’m definitely not […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, speaks during a rally outside the White House i...
Associated Press

Jury to be picked for Oath Keeper boss’ Jan. 6 sedition case

Jury selection is expected to get underway Tuesday in the trial of the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group and four associates charged with seditious conspiracy, one of the most serious cases to emerge from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Stewart Rhodes and the others are the first Jan. […]
22 hours ago
Workers remove a boat from the water in the bay of Havana, Cuba, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane ...
Associated Press

Hurricane Ian lashes Cuba, aims at Florida as possible Cat 4

HAVANA (AP) — A strengthening Hurricane Ian’s rain and winds lashed Cuba’s western tip, where authorities have evacuated 50,000 people, as it roared on a path that could see it hit Florida’s west coast as a Category 4 hurricane. Officials in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province set up 55 shelters, rushed in emergency personnel and […]
22 hours ago
Former Miss America Cara Mund poses in front of the North Dakota state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., S...
Associated Press

Cara Mund’s House pitch rides on abortion, outsider appeal

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — When Cara Mund was competing to become Miss North Dakota, a key part of her platform was increasing the number of women elected to political office. Later, after she became the state’s first Miss America winner, she traveled the country to encourage women to use their voice to make an impact. […]
22 hours ago
Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes meets with older voters at Elie's Café w...
Associated Press

Wisconsin’s Johnson embraces controversy in reelection bid

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Far from shying from his contrarian reputation, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Jonson is leaning into controversy as he runs for his third term. Johnson has called for the end of guaranteed money for Medicare and Social Security, two popular programs that American politicians usually steer clear from. He’s trafficked in conspiracy […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
21 or 2/2? Nadal, Medvedev chase history at Australian Open