Rafa Nadal's bombshell admission in Australian Open victory speech
Rafa Nadal has revealed he thought this would be his last Australian Open campaign, but now has the drive to carry on after winning a men's record 21st major.
Nadal is savouring the "greatest comeback" of his sparkling career after staging an epic fightback in Sunday night's final to take down Daniil Medvedev.
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Nadal recovered from two sets to love down for the first time in 15 years to defeat the second seed 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 in a drama-charged climax at Melbourne Park.
The landmark victory in a five-hour, 24-minute war of attrition that finished past midnight on Monday morning vaulted the Spaniard one slam clear of great rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on the all-time major titles leaderboard.
While addressing the crowd in the post-match ceremony, Nadal made the bombshell admission that he thought this was going to be the final time he played at the Australian Open.
“Being honest, one month and a half ago, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to be back playing tennis again,” he said after missing the second half of 2021 with a foot injury.
“You really don’t know how much I fought to be here.
“Maybe one month and a half ago I would have said this would be my last Australian Open. But now that’s plenty of energy to keep going.”
The revelation that he will keep playing earned a massive ovation from the crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal had only played two matches between last June and January because of the crippling injury and remained in doubt to play in Australia even after Christmas.
See you at #AO2023, no? 🙌@RafaelNadal • #AO2022 • #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/VhL9FTp6mX
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 30, 2022
Rafa Nadal hails 'greatest comeback' of his career
The sapping encounter was the second-longest final in Australian Open history, behind only Nadal's five-hour, 53-minute loss to Djokovic in 2012.
The 35-year-old admitted after the match that he was feeling "destroyed, physically".
In claiming the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup for a second time, 13 years after his first triumph, Nadal also joins Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Djokovic as only the fourth man in tennis history to win each of the four grand slam titles at least twice.
"If we put everything together - the scenario, the momentum, what (it) means - yeah, without a doubt (it's) probably the biggest comeback of my tennis career," he told the crowd.
"Without a doubt, it's one of the most emotional moments in my tennis career.
"I'm going to keep trying my best to come back next year."
Seemingly on the canvas after dropping the second set from 5-3 up, Nadal somehow conjured his first escape from two sets down since beating Mikhail Youzhny in the Wimbledon fourth round in 2006.
Youzhny, though, wasn't the World No.2, reigning US Open champion and riding a 13-match grand slam winning streak like Medvedev.
Asked if he now felt he was the greatest men's player of all-time, Nadal was typically humble.
"Of course, I know it's a special number, 21," he said.
"I feel honoured, lucky to achieve one more very special thing in my tennis career.
"But I don't care much if I am the one, or not the one, or the best of the history, not the best of the history.
"Honestly, today I don't care much, no? For me it's about enjoying nights like today. That means everything for me."
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