Sports editor Callie Hummel discusses the men that vied for the Australian Open win.
After the championship match between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev lasting five hours and 24 minutes ended, Nadal became the first man to win 21 Grand Slam Tennis titles.
Nadal doesn’t hold this record by much, though, as going into the Australia Open there were three men’s players who each had 20 Grand Slam wins vying for the record: Nadal, Roger Federer, who had to drop out early on due to a recent knee surgery, and Novak Djokovic.
Nadal and Djokovic have been continuously fighting for the ‘Best in the World’ title in a rivalry that spans over a decade. The two players have faced off 58 times, with Djokovic leading the feud 30-28. Last year at the French Open, a tournament generally dominated by Nadal, Djokovic pulled out a win in the championship when the two men went against each other. Since Djokovic was seeded #1 in the Australian Open this year, it’s almost inevitable that if Djokovic would have followed the COVID regulations like every other player, the two men would have faced off again at the championship game at the Australian Open. However, after days of fighting with the Australian government, Djokovic was sent home, unable to compete.
Since Djokovic had 2 more wins than Nadal in their long-spanning rivalry, it’s very possible that the championship game could have had a very different outcome and the record could be held by Djokovic now. However Nadal is quickly rising to be a new favorite in the eyes of the fans, not just because of the major win, but also his outspoken gratitude towards the countries who let players from all over the world compete in tennis tournaments during the pandemic. It’s a stark contrast from Djokovic’s COVID deportation.
Nadal didn’t have an easy feat even though Djokovic wasn’t able to play, as the championship match against Medvedev went into five games. In addition to the comeback after losing the first game 2-6, Nadal played the five-hour game experiencing chronic foot pain after an injury last year that almost put him into early retirement. After congratulating his teammate after the game and hugging his father in celebration, Nadal collapsed on the court and had to be assisted up the stairs to his press conference. Even with the pain he endured during the game, and the quintessential rest he’ll have to delay practices for, Nadal says breaking the record was worth it. Federer and Djokovic both congratulated him instantly on the victory.
As these three men have been competing with each other and facing chronic pain, knee injuries and Australian deportation officers on their road to a history book, Margaret Court is still sitting comfortably at the top with 24 Grand Slam wins. Court is currently retired, but has held this record since 1973, and was also the first woman to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year, 1970. Following Court, Serena Williams has 23 Grand Slam wins and is looking to attain more in the coming years. Steffi Graf, a retired German player, is third with 22 Grand Slam wins. This means Nadal’s win on Jan. 30 put him at fourth in the world for overall Grand Slam wins, with Federer and Djokovic still tied for fifth.