Rafael Nadal’s Historic Australian Open Victory: Key Questions

Rafael Nadal wrote a new chapter in this extraordinary era of men’s tennis by becoming the first of the “big three” to win a 21st Grand Slam singles title.

By defeating Daniil Medvedev in a grueling five sets at the Australian Open, the Spaniard moved ahead of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at the top of the all-time list.

Here, the PA news agency answers key questions around the triumph and what comes next.

How surprising was that?

Rafael Nadal shows his disbelief after winning the Australian Open title (Mark Baker/AP)

One look at Nadal’s face answered that question. He still has a lot of self-confidence but, after fearing a month and a half ago that a chronic foot problem could end his career, he certainly didn’t expect to walk away with a title he didn’t. hadn’t won since 2009. That he did it by two sets against a man who could soon be world number one made him all the more remarkable.

Is Nadal now the GOAT?

Men's Grand Slam singles champions.
Men’s Grand Slam singles champions. Infographic PA Graphics. An editable version of this graphic is available if needed. Please contact [email protected]

The greatest debate of all time has raged since Nadal and then Djokovic began to close in on Federer’s records. The Grand Slam tally is considered the most important, but it’s far from the only indicator, and the others mostly favor Djokovic. He begins his 358th week at the top of the ranking against 310 for Federer and 209 for Nadal. Djokovic has also won every ATP Masters tournament at least twice and leads both Nadal and Federer in head-to-head records. He is also a year younger than Nadal.

What difference did Djokovic’s absence make?

Novak Djokovic has been expelled from Australia
Novak Djokovic has been deported from Australia (Darko Bandic/AP)

Whether Djokovic would have made 10 titles in Melbourne if he hadn’t been sent off will never be known – a sentence that still sounds extraordinary to write. His tournament record, including two final victories over Nadal, would certainly have made him a strong favourite.

What future for Nadal?

This incredible feat can surely only boost the 35-year-old for the upcoming season and years to come. He has proven he can still physically match and improve on players a decade his junior and he will want to reclaim the French Open title from Djokovic and win a 14th crown in Paris. If he could reach 22 with the others still on 20, that would be a big gap.

And what about Djokovic?

This will be the key question in tennis over the next few months. If the restrictions stay the same and he continues to refuse to get the Covid-19 vaccine, then he will have limited options. As things stand, he is unlikely to be able to play the major ATP tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami as well as the French Open. There is a realistic scenario that Wimbledon is his next major tournament, although the situation could change significantly in the coming months. Federer, meanwhile, continues to recover from knee surgery.

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