Rafael Nadal will play his first tournament as a 21-time Major champion at the ATP 500 event in Acapulco next week, flying to Mexico on Wednesday night. The three-time Acapulco champion joins Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rock-solid draw, hoping to continue where he left in Melbourne and improve his 1-0 score in 2022.
Two years ago, Rafa conquered Acapulco without losing a set, defeating Taylor Fritz in the title clash and facing much more dangerous rivals at this year's campaign. The 35-year-old played only two matches in the second part of 2021, struggling with a foot injury and calling it a season in August.
In September, the Spaniard underwent a minor procedure and returned to the practice court a few weeks later, working hard on his game and hoping for a fresh start in 2022.
Rafael Nadal will seek the fourth Acapulco crown next week.
In December, Rafa lost both matches at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi and dealt with the coronavirus once he returned to Spain.
With question marks above his head, Nadal decided to travel to Melbourne and enter a small ATP 250 event ahead of the Australian Open and test his body. Rafa scored three wins to lift the first trophy since May 2021 and gathered a boost ahead of the Australian Open.
The 2009 champion felt good on the court at Melbourne Park and overpowered Karen Khachanov and Denis Shapovalov to find himself in the semis. Matteo Berrettini fell in four sets, and the Spaniard was through to his sixth Australian Open final.
Facing the fifth consecutive loss, Rafa trailed 6-2, 7-6, 3-2, 40-0 against world no. 2 Daniil Medvedev, wasting his chances in set number two and standing on the verge of defeat. Producing one of his most notable comebacks in a career, the Spaniard saved those three break points in the third set's sixth game and grabbed a break at 4-4 with a game-changing backhand down the line winner.
Rafa broke at 2-2 in the fourth set and claimed it with a comfortable hold in game ten to force a decider and become the favorite against a much younger rival. Nadal broke Medvedev in the fifth game and served for the title at 5-4.
Daniil made one last push and broke back before Rafa claimed games 11 and 12 to seal the deal after five hours and 24 minutes and become the first player with 21 Major titles.