Written by: Jeonghyeon
Edited by: Jagat
Visual by: Macy
Last January 30th, Rafael Nadal shocked spectators and the world by performing one of the greatest comebacks seen in tennis history, winning it all in the Australian Open by turning the tides and defeating Russian Daniil Medvedev.
The current world’s No. 2 player Medvedev and renowned tennis giant Nadal met in the Australian Open Finals, where we were shown a spectacular scene. Medvedev, fresh from his US Open championship victory, seemed to be on a roll. Starting off strong against the Spaniard, the Russian won the first set by a commanding 6-2 and won the 84-minute second set after a 7-5 tiebreaker. A tennis player has only won from two sets down five times in a Grand Slam final. It was at this point where predictive algorithms gave a 96% chance of Medvedev’s win, leaving Nadal an only 4% chance of turning the tides. Nobody expected Nadal to win.
Slowly losing his strength, Medvedev found his legs beginning to pull him down, while Nadal’s superior stamina kept him going. After a grueling 5 hour and 24 minute match, the Spaniard somehow managed to find the momentum to win three consecutive games to take the championship, achieving the comeback win of a lifetime. Following this monumental win, the 35-year-old has become the first ever to achieve 21 Grand Slam wins, pushing ahead of his rivals Novak Djokovic (34) and Roger Federer (40), who have 20 Grand Slams each.
Regardless of the Grand Slam record, Rafael Nadal has held a number of different tournament records in his career. He holds the most titles won at a single Grand Slam tournament, with 13 wins in the French Open, and has won at least one Grand Slam title for 15 years spanning his professional career. He even holds an impressive record of winning 4 Grand Slam titles without losing a single set (2008, 2010, 2017, 2020 French Opens).
Compared to the new, exciting talents in the tennis world such as Stefanos Tsitsipas (23), Daniil Medvedev (25), and Alexander Zverev (24), the age gap with the three tennis giants seems massive. Regardless of this, they are still capable of performing at the highest level. This is extremely abnormal for professional athletes of such age to still be leading the tennis world. Combined, all three of them have won 61 out of 76, or 80%, championships in the past 20 years. While other sports may have periods when a single person has won a championship for an extended period of time, nowhere else has there been this kind of simultaneous domination.
When the ‘Big Three’ retire, it truly may be the end of an era for the world of tennis.
“Men’s Tennis and the Real-World Consequences of Its Big Three Era | Jonathan Liew.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1 Feb. 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/feb/01/obsession-with-big-three-nadal-djokovic-federer-ruined-tennis.
Goward, Tom. “Just a Reminder That Rafael Nadal Was 2 Sets down & Defending 3 Break Points in the Third.” GiveMeSport, 31 Jan. 2022, https://www.givemesport.com/1830675-rafael-nadal-never-forget-the-situation-he-was-in-at-australian-open-before-winning.