Australian Open 2022: Nadal vs. Medvedev Final Set as Rafa Eyes Record 21st Major

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 28, 2022

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Matteo Berrettini of Italy in their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
AP Photo/Andy Brownbill

Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev secured their spots on Friday in the 2022 Australian Open final.

The sixth-seeded Nadal got past No. 7 Matteo Berrettini in the first Friday semifinal by a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 score. Then the second-seeded Medvedev defeated No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

If Nadal wins Sunday's final, he will break a tie with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for the most career men's singles Grand Slam titles in the Open era with 21.

With no Djokovic in the tournament because he isn't vaccinated against COVID-19 and no Federer because of a knee injury, the door was open for Nadal to make a run to the final.

It wasn't always easy, especially in the quarterfinals when he needed five sets to beat Canadian Denis Shapovalov, but now Rafa is one victory away from history.

Standing in his way is the 25-year-old Medvedev, who has arguably played better tennis than anyone since last summer.

Medvedev won last year's U.S. Open, which marked the first Grand Slam singles title of his career. If he can beat Nadal in the Aussie Open final, that will make it two major championships in a row.

Like Nadal, the Russian had some struggles en route to the final, as he needed at least four sets in all but two of his matches, including a five-set marathon against Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarters.

Medvedev also lost his composure at times in a four-set win over Tsitsipas in the semis, even receiving a code violation for directing an obscenity toward the crowd, which was clearly in favor of Tsitsipas.

Nadal, who had to overcome a foot injury to play in the Australian Open, said during his post-match on-court interview that it is something that is still in the back of his mind: "Every day has been an issue in terms of problems on the foot. Doubts still here ... probably for the rest of my career. But for me it's amazing ... (to) just compete and play tennis at the high level again, facing the most important players of the world."

Despite all his success, Nadal only has one Australian Open title to his credit, although the 2009 champion has reached the final four other times, with the most recent coming in 2019.

Meanwhile, Medvedev is making his second consecutive appearance in the Australian Open final after losing to Djokovic last year.

In terms of head-to-head meetings, Nadal and Medvedev have faced each other only four times. The 35-year-old Nadal is 3-1, including a win in the 2019 U.S. Open final.

Medvedev will look to get revenge for that particular loss, but the stakes are even higher this time around since Nadal can establish himself as the most accomplished men's tennis player in history with a win.