Rafael Nadal has broken countless records, despite his career being heavily impacted by injuries. Foot pain limited him to just seven official tournaments in 2021, causing fear of his imminent retirement. Arriving in Australia without great expectations at the beginning of this year, the Spanish phenomenon created a memorable ride destined to remain engraved in the annals.
After clinching the Melbourne ATP 250, the former world number 1 triumphed at the Australian Open against all odds. The 35-year-old from Manacor recovered two sets from Daniil Medvedev in the final, undermining his opponent's certainties just when the Russian seemed one step away from the finish line.
That success allowed Rafa to overtake Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the all-time rankings of the Majors. The Iberian became the fourth man in history to have won all the Slams at least twice (along with Djokovic, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson).
Speaking to Eurosport, Mats Wilander praised Nadal's ability to get back on top after every injury.
Mats Wilander on Rafael Nadal
“Rafael Nadal loves tennis and competing so much that when he’s feeling good he’s going to go out there and he’s going to run as hard as he can.
People are saying Rafa Nadal will not last a long time because of injuries, I’ve always said kind of the opposite,” said Wilander. “Rafa Nadal will last until he gets injured and then he will go home and he will do rehab and then he will play again and he will push himself so hard physically and mentally and emotionally that he will get injured again and then he will go home, he will rehab and he will start again," added the 57-year-old.
The Spaniard was recently diagnosed with a rib fracture, which will sideline him for four to six weeks. He will miss the Monte-Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open and his participation in the rest of the clay swing is still uncertain.
“In a perfect world I would have thought that after he won the tournament in Acapulco, Mexico playing as well as he did, beating Medvedev again in two sets, beating Cameron Norrie in the finals in two sets, I was 100% sure that he was not going to go and play in Indian Wells or Miami,” mentioned Wilander.
The Australian Open marks the first major tournament in the calendar year for both the ATP and the WTA circuits. This time, the winners of the men’s singles and the women’s singles titles, Rafael Nadal and Ashleigh Barty created history at the tournament.