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21: Nadal makes history down under

Move over Roger and Novak; there’s a new leader in the clubhouse. In a tournament filled with major controversy, Rafael Nadal has surpassed both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in becoming the all-time leader of Men’s Grand Slam Championships, winning his 21st major title early Sunday morning.

Nadal reached the final in Melbourne Sunday and faced of against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in which turned out to be an instant classic. This final match-up was a rematch of the 2019 U.S. Open Final, which saw Nadal win his 19th major championship in a long, five-set match. Sunday morning felt like a throwback, because this classic would also go five sets.

Medvedev entered the tournament as the favorite at +125 [after Djokovic was deported due to failing to provide proper documentation of visas.] Nadal was a pre-tournament 6-1 favorite to win the whole title, so if you had that ticket, congrats on the cash. Australia has historically been Nadal’s least successful tournament when it comes to major victories, so it’s understandable why Nadal wouldn’t be the favorite, or even second-favorite. But, there is one component to his game that is almost unmatched by any tennis player ever, or athlete for that matter: grit. He doesn’t stop competing even when he’s down and counted out. Even at 35 years old, you cannot underestimate him.

Nadal quickly found himself down two sets to love and was staring at an almost unsurmountable mountain to climb. Nadal had to do something he hasn’t done since 2007, and that was to come back and win a match at a Grand Slam in which he had lost the first two sets. He did exactly just that, and after five hours and 24 minutes, we witnessed history. An all-time great tennis player even further cementing himself into history.

This match was an instant classic as the rest of the sports world weighed in, including Nadal’s top rivals in Federer and Djokovic.

A couple of things are certain: we haven’t seen the end of the race for most Men’s Grand Slam titles, and we sure haven’t seen the last of Medvedev.

This is just the start of the tennis season, strap in because there is certainly more drama and fireworks to come.

You can follow Bruce Vail on Twitter (@BruceJVail) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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