The Australian Open ended in dramatic fashion over the weekend as Melbourne crowned the winners of the first Grand Slam of 2022. The build up to the tournament was dominated by the controversy surrounding Novak Djokovic and whether he would participate in the event due to a dispute over his Covid-19 vaccination status. However, thankfully it culminated in an historic weekend for all the good reasons…
There was huge pressure on home favourite and World No 1 Ashleigh Barty going into the ladies final on Saturday. Barty however powered through her final match against Danielle Collins to become the first homegrown winner of the women’s singles title in 44 years. After taking the first set 6-3 she faced a fierce reaction from Collins and fell 5-1 behind in the second set. The Australian then launched a great fightback to eventually level the set and force a tie-break. Watched on by a record TV audience in Australia of 4.2 million Barty managed to win the tie-break and claim victory 6-3 7-6 (7-2). In victory she has become a national hero in Australia and certainly cemented herself as currently the world’s player.
Incredibly there was even more drama in the men’s final on Sunday. Former World No 1 Rafael Nadal was a surprising underdog before his final against Russian World No 2 Daniil Medvedev. Roared on by a loud crowd on Rod Laver Arena Nadal struggled initially against the US Open champion who took command of the match in the early stages.
Despite some promising shots from Nadal he found it difficult to gain momentum in the match and lost the first two sets. The 35-year-old Spaniard had to then show all of his trademark grit and determination to somehow get himself back into contention. Amazingly he managed to find an extra gear as the night wore on in Melbourne and staged one of the greatest comeback in the history of the sport.
The two-time Wimbledon champion produced some amazing tennis to win both the third & fourth sets to take the match into a decider. As the local time edged towards midnight both players would have been forgiven for feeling some fatigue but they managed to maintain an incredible standard in the fifth set. Nadal used the encouragement he had built up to finally claim the championship after five hours 24 minutes on court and at 1.11am local time! 2-6 6-7(5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5
After the match Nadal hailed his triumph as one of his most emotional matches. What makes his victory even more incredible is that only a couple of months ago he was on crutches after foot surgery and was not even sure he was going to be able to play tennis again. To emerge from such an injury in such a short period of time and win a Grand Slam is a phenomenal achievement. Significantly it also edges Nadal ahead of Roger Federer & Novak Djokovic in the all-time ‘GOAT’ rankings with Sunday’s victory his 21st Grand Slam title.
It sets up a fascinating 2022 in terms of the race for the most Grand Slams. The next Slam is the French Open in May where Nadal has been so dominant. Novak Djokovic will certainly look to fight back, particularly at Wimbledon and the US Open later in the year where has enjoyed success over the years. Federer has yet to confirm which tournaments he will play in 2022 due to injury but it is going to be exciting for tennis fans to see these three great players compete for Grand Slam supremacy.