'Rafael Nadal's going to be an absolute animal', says top analyst
by SIMONE BRUGNOLI | VIEW 9834
Reigning champion Rafael Nadal is back at Melbourne Park. The 22-time Major winner is preparing for his 18th Australian Open, traveling to Melbourne from Sydney and training with Felix Auger-aliassime. Rafa is yet to win a match this year, losing twice in the United Cup a set down, and will hope to add to his run in Melbourne.
Nadal came into last year's Australian Open without high hopes, wanting to compete at his best level and test his body after a nasty foot injury. Rafa overcame his difficulties and overcame seven obstacles to lift his first crown at Melbourne Park since 2009.
The Spaniard notched a pair of notable victories and became the first player with 21 Major trophies. Nadal eliminated the likes of Denis Shapovalov and Matteo Berrettini to reach his sixth Australian Open final. Rafa was left at the gates of the fifth consecutive defeat in them after going through many difficulties in the first two sets.
He was trailing 6-2, 7-6, 3-2, 40-0 against world number 2 Daniil Medvedev, before staging one of the best comebacks of his career. Rafa won 2-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 and 7-5 in five hours and 24 minutes and won the second longest Major final.
Nadal fell inches short of runner-up when he faced those three break points in the sixth game of the third set. Rafa stole that game and got a big boost early in the recovery from him. Nadal claimed the third set after breaking the opposition with a baseline backhand winner in the ninth game and built an early lead in the fourth.
Rafa held the tie in the tenth game to close out the set and force a decider after four hours and 12 minutes, firmly believing in a complete comeback.
Nadal is the defending champion at the AO
Mats Wilander pointed out that 36-year-old Rafael Nadal now has the ability to win on different surfaces and venues.
"Having won there for the second time for someone like him, now he has won all of the Majors twice or more, that's massive. That's where he separates himself from the great Roger Federer, who only won one French Open. So Rafa now knows how to win in all the different venues," said Wilander on Eurosport.
"He just has to get there healthy. He's going to be an absolute animal and I'm sure that he is going to play his best tennis. He has a big chance to win the Australian Open, as he does the French Open," said Wilander.