Rafa Nadal has once again proved his greatness at the Australian Open after reaching Sunday night's final.
The 20-time grand slam champion took the second half of 2021 off due to injury, and even Uncle Toni is surprised by his return.
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Nadal reached the final on Friday after seeing off Matteo Berrettini in their semi-final showdown.
A Wimbledon finalist last year - when he was runner-up to Novak Djokovic - Berrettini was made to look second rate for long periods in Friday's 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 loss on Rod Laver Arena.
While many fans are accustom to seeing Nadal fight his way to grand slam semi-finals and beyond, the 2022 Australian Open campaign has seen him overcome a number of obstacles.
Nadal missed Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open last year due to a serious foot injury.
Most recently, he spoke to Jim Courier and admitted there were times leading up to the Australian Open that he was fearing that he might not be able to get on court.
Only a few weeks out from the grand slam, Nadal tested positive for Covid-19.
And his former trainer Toni Nadal has revealed there was a point only a few days out before departing for Australia that Nadal was in serious doubt to play.
“I’m surprised (by his form),” Uncle Toni said to Carena SER.
“Because, I remember when three days before (leaving for Australia), Rafa called my youngest son to hit a few balls after being quarantined due to coronavirus.
“At nine o’clock, we went to train and during training, he said, “I don’t know if I’m going to go or not because at the moment I’m not in condition for the Australian Open”.
“He only had three days to get a flight. The following day, he perked up and said “Okay, come on, I’m going”.
“I think it was more the excitement of competing and returning to competition than believing in himself.”
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Nadal also recovered from heat stroke suffered during his epic five-set quarter-final win over Dennis Shapovalov.
Friday's result put the Spanish great just one win away from a record 21st major title and a second at Melbourne Park, where he last tasted success in 2009.
"It means a lot to be in the final again here," he said.
"I never thought about another chance in 2022 so I'll just try to enjoy the victory of today and then after tomorrow I will try my best."
It was one-way traffic early as Nadal picked apart Berrettini's service game and hammered his backhand in the opening two sets, leading to a succession of unforced errors.
Berrettini broke Nadal for the first time in his career - they had only met once before, in a 2019 US Open semi-final - to ensure he claimed the third set.
But it wasn't enough as the more experienced of the two steadied to secure his 500th career hard-court win in just under three hours.
"I started the match playing great - first two sets have been one of the best since long time," Nadal said.
"Then I know how good is Matteo, he's a very solid player, very dangerous.
"In the third, I know at some point he's gonna go for the shots and then I think I didn't play a good game with my serve at 4-3.
"He played some great shots - a passing shot down the line, unbelievable - then we need to suffer and we need to fight in the fourth again."
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