In need of joys, good stimuli and a mental boost to reverse the negative trend of recent times, Rafael Nadal achieved a vitamin title in Melbourne at the gates of the Australian Open, which will begin on the 17th, clouded by the Djokovic case. The dispute between the Serbian and the oceanic country has diverted the focus these days from the tracks, while the bulk of the players sharpened in the preparatory tournaments and the Spanish (7-6 (6) and 6-3 to Maxime Cressy, in 1h 47m) was again nibbling on a trophy after almost eight months. The Balearic did not do it since May 16, then at the Foro Italico in Rome, and despite the lower rank of this latest achievement – an ATP 250, the fourth category of the men’s circuit – Nadal tastes like glory.
Number six savors it, since the last few months have been a real ordeal for him: almost half a year on hiatus due to a left foot injury (Müller-Weiss syndrome), too many absences (Wimbledon, Games, US Open , Masters Cup, Davis …) and a frustrated return by covid-19, with only two aperitif matches in Abu Dhabi – defeats against Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov – and then more than a week of confinement at the home of Porto Cristo , until it surrendered to the coronavirus. Replacement of the last blow, he flew on December 29 to Melbourne and after six days of training and three victories, he returned to find success.
“These last few months have been really very, very difficult,” admitted the 20-grand champion. “There have been many doubts and they continue to be, we are not going to fool ourselves,” he continued. “But it is a positive start and I am satisfied. I have gone through many difficult moments and collecting the reward with a title is always worth it ”, Nadal valued, already with 89 trophies in his showcases – three more than Novak Djokovic (86), only behind Jimmy Connors (109), Roger Federer (103) and Ivan Lendl (94) – and that with the latter he links 19 consecutive seasons celebrating at least one award.
The first arrived in Sopot, on August 15, 2004, at the age of 18 and in his third year as a professional; against the Argentine José Acasuso. The Spanish defends a single record. Djokovic, if he got one in 2022, would extend his streak to 17 years, while the Swiss Federer’s sequence remained at 15 (from 2001 to 2015). “Obviously, after all I’ve had to deal with, the number means a lot. Is special. Winning is always special, whatever the tournament, because in the end it is one more title for my curriculum ”, underlined the one from Manacor, with a 70.6% success rate in the finals that he has played so far (89 won, 37 lost ), only behind the American Pete Sampras (72.7, 64-24), the Australian Rod Laver (71.9%, 69-27), the Swede Björn Borg (71.7%, 66-26) and the unruly John McEnroe (71%, 76-31). Nole (69.7%, 85-37) follows in his wake.
A week after the Open, the Mallorcan regained the joy that had been denied him so much. In any case, the initial test in Melbourne does not allow us to draw too many conclusions, apart from the fact that the foot has responded correctly and that it still lacks filming to fight again against the strongest. Ricardas Berankis (104th), Tallon Griekspoor (65th) and Cressy (112th) represent an insufficient scale. The signs are positive, yes.
“Today’s game [por el de este domingo] He has been the best, without a doubt, ”he appreciated after saving a set ball in the first quarter, and sealing the duel with 33 winners and only seven errors. “I think that, putting it in context, this week of preparation has been fantastic,” he continued before hinting at where he is and closing: “I understand that the expectations are always high because in the end I have achieved what I have achieved in my career, but I know where I come from and this time I come with a approach a tad different, to try to make it serve me every day, every training session. Today I do not feel like a real candidate for what may come in a week. Afterwards, you never know… ”.
Apart from the celebration of the Balearic Islands, the weekly closing left the defeat of Spain in the final of the ATP Cup, the tournament for teams that has been played for three years in the run-up to the Open. In the opening of the final series, Shapovalov beat Pablo Carreño (6-4 and 6-3) and then Felix Auger-Aliassime defeated Roberto Bautista (7-6 (3) and 6-3). On the other hand, local Ashleigh Barty achieved her second title in Adelaide and Simona Halep (Melbourne 1) and Amanda Anisimova (Melbourne 2) started the season on a good note. Meanwhile, Paula Badosa and Garbiñe Muguruza will compete from this morning in Sydney.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.