Rafael Nadal has started the mind games early in the men’s singles final with a strange tactic that has infuriated some. Follow it live.
Daniil Medvedev is the only man that can stop Spanish legend Rafael Nadal from winning a historic 21st grand slam title on Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal’s comeback from a pit of despair last year where he thought his career could be over as recently as December makes Sunday night’s blockbuster men’s singles final a potential fairytale for the ages.
The two players are out on the court and the match commenced with the extraordinary scenes of Medvedev being booed as he walked onto the court.
The crowd was subdued almost instantly as Medvedev raced away to win the first set 6-2.
Nadal’s struggling despite ‘cheeky’ early mindgame
Rafael Nadal’s serve has deserted him and he has quickly found himself down a set against Daniil Medvedev.
It was a clinic from Medvedev, who was barely troubled on his serve and found ways to harrass Nadal on nearly every service game.
Nadal had been playing mindgames right from the first service game as he was forced to escape from dangerous positions.
The Spanish legend has been taking extended periods of time in between serves — something his quarter-final opponent Denis Shapovalov blew up about.
Nadal even stopped in the middle of his service game and asked a ball kid to wipe drops of sweat away from the baseline.
Channel 9 commentator Sam Groth suggested it was a cunning early attempt to unsettle Medvedev.
“A little bit of a cheeky way after a couple of physical points to slow it down a little bit there,” he said.
New York Times tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg wrote on Twitter it looked like a “deliberate” tactic to slow the speed of the match.
Despite the match craft, Medvedev continued to absorb the Nadal serve and took control of the match.
Medvedev given brutal welcome
Daniil Medvedev has been booed by sections of the Melbourne crowd as he walked out onto Rod Laver Arena following Rafael Nadal.
The hostile reception comes after the Russian’s extraordinary blow up at a chair umpire during his semi-final win over Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The umpire attack only reinforced his reputation as the premier villain of the 2022 tournament.
Being heckled by the crowd has historically been fuel that catapult’s Medvedev to lift his game to another level.
Aussie legend Lleyton Hewitt summed up the crowd reaction during his commentary on Channel 9, saying: “He is the villain out here. He’s trying to spoil the party”.
Nadal pre-match photo raises eyebrows
Rafael Nadal has been spotted undergoing a delicate strapping operation on his fingers hours before the Australian Open men’s singles final.
The Spaniard was sitting down for a routine procedure where he has his hands wrapped with a special strapping tape to avoid blisters.
The behind the scenes footage was easily explained by Aussie great Jelena Dokic on Channel 9.
“It is (routine). He always gets his hands and his fingers taped to prevent blisters,” she said.
“We have seen it in the past as well. He gets blisters and I think he sweats quite a bit as well and gets very physical in his matches. So it affects him.”
She said Nadal has a reputation for getting his hands strapped for every training session as well.
“He is so clinical with that,” she said.
“The tape sticks because as you can imagine, getting sweaty and with the racket, you don’t want that to be moving around on your hands. So the prep stuff is so that it sticks and it lasts for the length of what could be five set match.”
The footage also appeared to capture Nadal getting dangerously close to a nose-pick as his fingers wiped underneath his honker.
Top seeds win women’s doubles in stunning comeback
Top seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova won their fourth Grand Slam Sunday, sweeping to the Australian Open women’s doubles title against Kazakstan’s Anna Danilina and Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia.
The Czech pair battled from a set down to come through 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena and go one better than last year when they were runners up to Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka.
“I want to thank my partner Katerina,” said Krejcikova, the world’s fourth-ranked singles player.
“She’s been playing with me for a very long time and I’m happy we are still working really, really well together. I’m looking forward to the next adventure.” Krejcikova and Siniakova have already won titles at Roland Garros (2018, 2021) and Wimbledon (2018) since making their debut as a partnership in 2016.
The Australian Open was the pair’s 11th tour title, with five of them coming last year.
The unseeded Danilina and Haddad Maia only teamed up for the first time at the Sydney Classic in the lead-up to the Australian Open, which they won.
Medvedev wants to crash Big Three’s party
Rafael Nadal will be looking to move ahead of his great “Big Three” rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic by winning a record 21st Grand Slam crown in Sunday’s Australian Open final — but Daniil Medvedev is ready to crash the party.
The Russian upset Novak Djokovic in last year’s US Open final to prevent the Serbian’s calendar Grand Slam bid and his quest to become the first of the golden era rivals to break away from the three-way tie on 20 Grand Slam titles.
Nadal will also become only the fourth man to win each of the four Grand Slams twice should he succeed against the world number two on Rod Laver Arena.
At 35, he will be the third oldest man in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam title, behind Ken Rosewall and Federer.
“For me at the end it’s about more than all these statistics, it’s about being in the final of the Australian Open one more time. That means a lot to me,” Nadal said.
“To me it’s more important to be in the final and fight to win another Australian Open than the rest of the statistics for the history of the sport.
“I am facing my most difficult rival of the whole tournament in the final.” The quirky Russian is relishing the chance to block Nadal getting to 21 majors, as he did with Djokovic four months ago.
“It’s a great rivalry. I’m happy to have the chance to try to stop one more time somebody from making history,” Medvedev said after reaching his second straight Australian Open final, having lost in the championship decider to Djokovic a year ago.
“I’m just trying to focus on doing my job. Of course, I’m not lying, I know what’s happening, I know what Rafa is going for, I knew what Novak was going for.”
While much of the sentimental interest is in Nadal’s remarkable comeback from last year’s injury-ravaged season to reach his sixth Australian final and 29 overall in Grand Slams, Medvedev is still standing after a turbulent tournament.
He had to negotiate the explosive Australian Nick Kyrgios and a partisan home crowd, come through two long, sapping battles in the heat with Maxime Cressy and Felix Auger-Aliassime before overcoming frosty rival Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-final.
Each time the 25-year-old Russian has found a solution in his 17 and a half hours on court. He now has one more problem to solve in Nadal.
“I think it’s gonna be a great battle, probably a physical match. Rafa likes to drag people into long rallies. I like it too,” he said.
“Rafa, we know that from the first till the last point he’s gonna fight his best, and that’s what I’m gonna try to do also.” Nadal leads Medvedev 3-1, with the Russian losing to the Spanish leftie in his first major final at the 2019 US Open over five sets.
It has been an extraordinary effort from Nadal just to get to the final of another Slam suffering from a degenerative bone disease in his left foot that ended his 2021 season last August.
“One month and a half ago I didn’t know if I will be able to be back to the tour,” said Nadal, who caught Covid in December which he said left him very sick.
“So here I am, and thanks life for it.”