'I missed it': Brutal truth behind Rafa Nadal's Aus Open breakdown
Rafa Nadal has laid bare the struggles he has faced over the last six months after breaking down after reaching the Australian Open men's final.
The 20-time grand slam champion defeated big-serving Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to reach his sixth Australian Open final and stand on the brink of tennis history.
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Nadal stormed through the first two sets in the best tennis he has played in 2022, before he showed some nerves in the third set and allowed the Italian back into the contest.
But unwavering in his tactics, Nadal finally broke Berrettini in the fourth and closed out the match to an enormous applause on Rod Laver Arena.
The win in the final would make Nadal the male with the most grand slam titles with 21, taking him ahead of both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic (both on 20).
After the match, Nadal thanked his opponent before heading back to his chair.
The Spaniard put his head into his hat and appeared to breakdown in tears.
Before going out for his post-match interview, Nadal took a moment and buried his head in his tennis bag.
What it means to be back in an #AusOpen final 💙@RafaelNadal • #AO2022 pic.twitter.com/OF29zQkF9i
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 28, 2022
#Nadal, still fighting at age 35
📸Antoine Couvercelle pic.twitter.com/H4sx85FBU3
— Christopher Clarey 🇺🇸 🇫🇷 🇪🇸 (@christophclarey) January 28, 2022
And speaking to Jim Courier post-match, Nadal said the struggles over the last six-months were real.
"A month and a half ago, I didn't know if I was going to be able to play tennis," he said.
Before Nadal's semi-final, Uncle Toni revealed Nadal was very close to not making the Australian Open after he was hit hard by Covid.
Rafa Nadal reveals farewell conversations with team
After leaving the court, Nadal revealed to reporters that there was a time where he was thinking if his injury didn't get better he would be willing to say goodbye at the Australian Open.
“I went through a lot of challenging moments, a lot of days of hard work without seeing a light there but still working and receiving plenty of support from my team and family,” he told reporters of what sparked that emotional reaction.
“So a lot of conversations with the team, with family about what can happen or what will happen if things continue like this, thinking maybe it was a chance to say goodbye. That was not a lot of months ago.
“To be where I am today, I can’t explain in words how important it is to me in terms of self-satisfaction and being thankful for the support.”
On Eurosport, tennis great Mats Wilander asked Nadal: "What most surprises you? That you can still hit the ball like this, move, solve the problems?"
🗣 Mats Wilander: What's the most surprising part of your return after six months off with injury?
🗣 @RafaelNadal: 𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈
An emotional Rafa Nadal reflects on his "lucky" return to tennis 💪#AusOpen pic.twitter.com/2KcqwZW6mI
— Eurosport (@eurosport) January 28, 2022
However, Nadal couldn't answer the question without expressing his own bewilderment.
"Mats, being honest, everything," Nadal said.
"Those next to me, who lived my diary, find it difficult to believe I am doing this. I feel alive again. I missed it."
While Nadal boasts 20 grand slam titles, the Australian Open hasn't always been kind - after defeating Federer in the 2009 final he's lost four championship deciders (2012, 2014, 2017 and 2019).
Nadal will either play Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 2022 Australian Open final.
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