Fifteen years ago, it was hard to imagine anyone reaching the top 30 major finals, without anyone approaching that number in the previous three decades. Roger Federer broke that barrier at the 2018 Australian Open, and Novak Djokovic joined him on the roster a year ago.
The third legend, Rafael Nadal, verified his 30th Major final at Roland Garros last week, entering the special group with his closest rival and reaching another milestone. It took Rafa 17 years to achieve this feat, as he played in his first title match at Paris 2005.
Nadal did not play in a Grand Slam final in 2015, 2016 and 2021, and was among the title contenders at least once in every other season. Rafa has been perfect at the 2022 Majors, and the Australian Open and Roland Garros finals put him at 30, just one behind Djokovic and Federer.
The Spaniard won the 22nd Major at Roland Garros, staying perfect in his favorite event and lifting the 14th title of as many finals. Nadal defeated Jordan Thompson, Corentin Moutet and Botic Van De Zandschulp in straight sets in the first three rounds to conserve his energy and troublesome footing.
Rafa had to work much harder in the fourth round as Felix Auger-Aliassime pushed him to the limit. In their rare five-set match on clay, Nadal raised his level in the deciding set to defeat the youngster and advance to the quarterfinals.
In a duel of titans, Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 in four hours and 12 minutes. The Spaniard dethroned the Serbian after a remarkable comeback in the fourth set, when he was trailing 5-2 and facing two set points on the return of game nine.
Roger Federer discusses his return
Roger Federer has all but confirmed that the Laver Cup will be his first tournament in 2022. "I knew [my knee surgery and recovery] would be a long process but the operation was necessary, I couldn't have played like this after Wimbledon.
Now I hope to be able to get back into the Laver Cup in September," Federer said. Although the 20-time Grand Slam champion said he wanted to go golfing as well, he was worried that it might be too hard on his back. "When I recover, I'll go skiing, of course.
Maybe I'll go golfing again, that wasn't possible in the last few years. Not now with my knee anyway, and as is well known, I used to suffer from back problems," Federer said. "Once I went to a round of golf with my mother for her 60th birthday and I really wanted to play along.
After that, I suffered from back pain for a week. So I let it go from there. If I start golfing, I won't do it alone, but together with Mirka."