Six weeks before the start of the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal was unsure if he would ever play tennis again. He is one win away from a record 21st men's singles Grand Slam title.
For the past 20 years, the fates of Novak, Roger and Nadal have been intertwined. They all have 20 Grand Slam titles and three of them are fighting the tide of age and the fiery youngsters looking to knock them off their perch.
Even though he was an outsider for the title because of the foot injury that has kept him out since May and the disruption caused by his bout of COVID-19 in December, Nadal was still able to win the Australian Open.
His amazing four-set win over Matteo Berrettini in Friday's semifinal came just 48 hours after he said he felt destroyed. Within two days, he looked 11 years younger, playing the most incredible brand of tennis to book a spot in his 29th Grand Slam final.
He is not fighting to get one ahead of either of them. He is playing the game with love and a desire to learn what his battered body can do after he has retired.
Before the start of the tournament, Nadal said that he was enjoying playing tennis. I want to keep winning because I love what I do.
After pondering retirement for two months. It was a triumph to get to the Open. He kept winning.
Nadal has had injuries before. His knees, feet, and ankles have caused problems in his career. In his first few years on the circuit, he had a stressFracture in his left ankle in 2004, a foot injury in 2005, knee injuries in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and a stressFracture in his left ankle in 2004. He wrote in his memoir that he contemplated abandoning the sport to play golf.
He was out for nearly a year after Wimbledon in 2012 and didn't return until the French Open. He missed the US Open with a wrist injury and the Wimbledon with a wrist injury. He talked about an expiriment date around this time.
He made it back to win the French Open in three of the last four years, along with the US Open in two of the last three years.
The break in mid-2020 allowed Nadal to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals. Despite a back injury, he got himself fit for the clay season, but crashed out of the French Open in the semifinals due to a recurring foot issue.
On June 17, 2021, Nadal said he was pulling out of the Olympics. He said the decision was made after listening to his body.
The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition.
He came back in time for the hard-court season because of his issues with his left foot. He pulled out of the US Open after a third-round exit at the Citi Open because of an injury.
He revealed that he had been taking a self-enforced absence since 2005, and that he had had an issue with it.
I need to take some time to find a solution to this problem or at least improve it in order to continue to have options for the next few years.
He posted a photo of himself on crutches on his social media accounts and said he had been working quietly with his team.
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There were more alarm bells when he said he didn't know when he would play again. There are always things that I can't control 100 percent, but inside my head I know what my objectives are and I trust that things will follow a positive course.
He used the time to further his academy and foundation. He was adopted by a small town on the east coast of Mallorca. Fans asked when they would see him on court in each update.
The first tennis-related post came on December 16th, when a shot of Nadal serving in Abu Dhabi was posted. He lost both matches but was on track.
Only to stop him.
After testing positive for a drug, Nadal spent four days in bed and was physically destroyed for three days.
He was worried that he would leave to focus on the clay season. On New Year's Eve, he posted a photo of himself standing on Rod Laver Arena, saying "Don't tell anyone" and "Here I am!"
His first tour match in five months was the Melbourne Summer Set 1 ATP 250. By the time the Australian Open started, Nadal's presence in the draw was a big deal.
Nadal is eager to play down expectations and is in a nostalgic mood. He said that there would be a moment in his career where the comeback would not be possible, and that he had been suffering a lot with his foot. He said that the time out allowed him to manage the pain of the foot injury.
After opening the Australian Open with a straight sets win over Marcos Giron, Nadal revealed that his foot injury had been worse than before. He told Eurosport Spain that he didn't know if he would play tennis again at a professional level due to his foot problems.
The experienced tennis philosopher is breaking through and we are seeing the Nadal we have seen in Melbourne more aware of his own mortality. He said that the positive thing was that he achieved more than he ever dreamed. What about the rest of the things? I arrive to the end. The watch never stops when you get older. That is the circus of life. You have to accept that. It's all good with me.
He said the win overHoffman allowed him to practice again tomorrow.
He got through his third-round test with Karen Khachanov in four sets and then won his next match in straight sets to set up a clash with Shapovalov. He said the tournament was going better than expected, but Nadal would have to work harder on his body and mind in the final.
While the 22-year-old Canadian was screaming at the sun and getting increasingly frustrated with decisions being made by the umpire, Nadal stayed focused. He took the first two sets, lost the next two, but rebounded to win 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. He said he needed a break to regroup as he was no longer 21.
The two-day rest gave him time to play his best against Berrettini in the semifinals, as he played like 2010 Nadal. The performance was marked by an emotional celebration from Nadal. As Berrettini stuck his forehand into the net on match point, Nadal turned to his team and with three fist pumps and a shout of "Vamos!", he went from disbelief to elation.
The Australian Open has already been a success for Nadal, even though he was close to stepping through the door of retirement.
There are similarities between the Australian Open run of Federer, who battled back after six months out with a knee injury, and the one he took in the end. We are seeing Nadal living out an encore, playing with more freedom, less stress and an appreciation of what he has achieved and how much fun he has left in his career.
He has the chance on Sunday, but any thoughts of 21 and the significance are not relevant to the achievement of his last two weeks at the Australian Open. He was offered another chance to think about what it would mean to go one Slam ahead of both of them. He is proud of what he has achieved and is happy to leave that for others.
Nadal said that he feels like a very lucky person for all the things that happen to him in this life. If Novak or Roger finish their careers with more Grand Slams than me, I will not be upset. The situation that every one of us had was enjoyable. In our sport, we did very special things. Let's enjoy it. The other thing doesn't matter.