The absence of Novak Djokovic from the Australian Open 2022, thanks to the well-known vaccination issue, paved the way for Rafael Nadal. The Spanish phenomenon has achieved one of the greatest achievements of his entire career, in a tournament that had often been hostile to him in the past years.
Arriving in Melbourne without great expectations, the former world number 1 found the right rhythm with the passing of the rounds until he won his 21st Major. After surviving two real battles against Denis Shapovalov and Matteo Berrettini, the 35-year-old from Manacor rallied Daniil Medvedev two sets in the final.
The historic 'Down Under' triumph allowed Rafa to overtake Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the all-time Grand Slam standings. The Serbian veteran will try to make up for it at Roland Garros, where he will be called upon to defend the title he won last year.
France has decided to abolish the vaccination pass, so Nole should have no problems playing the second major of the season. In the latest edition of the 'US Open Podcast', James Blake tried to build the perfect player using the Big 3.
Blake praises Novak Djokovic
"There's so many mentally tough players ... but I just think what he's (Rafael Nadal) done mentally, the way he, I mean you've never seen him once smash a racket on court. You've never seen him get down on himself to the point where it seems like it affects the next point, you don't see him getting onto people's faces," Blake said.
"He's extremely excited, he's pumped up and he's the guy that in the first round of a tournament, in the final of a tournament, looks like he is competing for every single point. Down 40-love in the first game, he might make a great shot and give a fist pump in the first round against a guy he's gonna end up beating 2 and 2."
The American also selected Novak Djokovic's backhand, which he felt was "rock solid" and would never break down under pressure. "Backhand I think I gotta go with Djokovic," Blake added. " It is just so rock solid.
Just seems like he can count on that at any moment, pressure moments, not pressure moments. He cann create pace with it, he can hit angles with it, and he does it so well. Return of serve that's a tough one because I feel like there are different categories.
There's being able to make enough, there's able to being aggressive with the returns. So I would probably still say Novak. Earlier I'd say Agassi was the most aggressive returner I ever saw and that was effective but having to make every single one and get in play and get in a good position, think I'm still gonna say Novak," Blake added.