The biggest of the big three? The incredible records Rafael Nadal can set in the Aus Open final
One more victory.
Rafael Nadal’s four-set triumph over Matteo Berrettini propelled him into the Australian Open 2022 final, putting him in sight of history.
And if he beats Stefanos Tstisipas or Daniil Medvedev on Sunday night at Melbourne Park, it will also cap a remarkable recovery from a career-threatening foot injury.
These are the incredible records Nadal can set if he wins the Australian Open this year.
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A SURPRISING NEW LEADER IN GOAT RACING
Roger Federer has led the race to the most Grand Slam titles, single or tied, since 2009.
Novak Djokovic was seen as his most logical successor, given his nine Australian Open crowns, his age advantage and the absence of lingering injury problems.
Still, it could be Nadal who strikes blackjack first, as the Australian Open title would be his 21st slam, breaking the tie on 20 with his Big Three compatriots.
Federer has held the record since 2009, when he passed Pete Sampras, the 2018 Australian Open crown placing him at 20.
Nadal joined him with the 2020 French Open title, while Djokovic burst into the picture by winning the first three Slams of 2021, before losing the US Open final which would have given him both the lead and a Schedule Slam.
With Roland Garros waiting until late May/early June and Djokovic’s status for that event unclear – unless he simply decides to get vaccinated – Nadal could play 22 Grand Slams, two ahead of his rivals, by the middle of the year.
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Winning a 21st title would also put Nadal within striking distance of the overall record, held by Margaret Court (24, although many of his 11 Australian Opens have been won with very weak, mostly homegrown fields).
Nadal would also be behind Serena Williams (23, including a career triple Grand Slam) and Steffi Graf (22, including a career quadruple Grand Slam).
Djokovic’s decisions opened the door for Rafa to claim the men’s lead; it’s up to him to sneak in.
…AND IT DOES IT WITH A BETTER STRIKE RATE
Apart from his disappointments at Melbourne Park, where he has lost his last four finals, Nadal has been better than his rivals to win the grand final when he has the chance.
This year’s Australian Open final will be the 29th of Nadal’s career – he holds a win-loss record of 20-8 – while Federer and Djokovic have played in 31 Slam finals, for records of 20-11.
No other player has reached 20 Slam finals in the Open era.
Meanwhile, this will be Nadal’s sixth appearance in an Australian Open final, putting him behind Djokovic (9), Federer, John Bromwich, Jack Crawford and Roy Emerson (all 7) for the most appearances.
A SECOND AUSSIE OPEN… FINALLY
Djokovic’s second French Open title, won last year, gave him a clear advantage over Nadal and Federer.
The Serb became the first man to win a career double Grand Slam, with two titles in each event, in the Open era. He joined Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only three to ever do so.
Nadal came close to being the first of the big three, however. In 2010 he had just five of his 13 Roland Garros trophies on his coat, plus two Wimbledon crowns, and in 2013 he added a second US Open title.
But since then he has made the Australian Open final three times – losing to Stan Wawrinka (2014), Federer (2017) and Djokovic (2019).
With Federer still without a second French Open title – and unlikely to get it given he hasn’t played the event in four of the last six years – Nadal can top his rival tonight.
He would become the fourth man to complete the dual Grand Slam career.
THE DOUBLE ACT CONTINUES
Nadal and Djokovic have combined to win 12 of the last 14 Grand Slams, dating back to the 2018 French Open, with only Medvedev (US Open 2021) and Dominic Thiem (US Open 2020) breaking their duopoly.
Medvedev has only faced Nadal and Djokovic in his last four Grand Slam appearances.
He lost to Djokovic the first time (Australian Open 2021) but won the second (US Open 2021); he lost to Nadal the first time (US Open 2019).
LIKE A GREAT WINE
Nadal became the fourth oldest man to reach the Australian Open final in the Open era, and the fifth man aged 35 or over to reach a Slam final in the Open era.
It follows Ken Rosewall (who reached six Slam finals earlier than Nadal), Federer (three more than Nadal), Mal Anderson (1972 Australian Open final at 36 and 306 days) and Andre Agassi (final of the 2005 US Open at 35 and 135). days).
Only three men – Rosewall in 1971 and 1972, and Federer in 2018 – have won the Australian Open at a later age than Nadal is now.
This will be Nadal’s ninth Slam final since he turned 30 – only Djokovic (10) has done more.
On the other hand Medvedev is trying to become the youngest winner of the Australian Open since Djokovic (25 years, 250 days) in 2013.
Medvedev is also trying to become the fifth man to win the Australian Open after facing match point, joining John Newcombe (1975, three saved), Johan Kriek (1982, saved one), Stefan Edberg (1985, saved two ) and Marat. Safin (2005, saved one).
THE RICH GET RICH
Nadal can add an additional A$2,875,000 to his career total price of $125,050,235 (A$178,975,647) if he wins the title tonight, or A$1,575,000 if he loses.
That would close the gap on second-placed Roger Federer ($130,594,339 or $186,910,535) but keep him well behind leader Novak Djokovic ($154,756,726 or $221,492,468).
Medvedev, on a career total of $22,126,356 ($31,667,904) currently sits 18th all-time, a few big wins behind 10th-placed Tomas Berdych ($29,491,328 or $42,208,873).
RANKING AMONG THE BEST
Nadal can’t improve on his world No. 5 ranking even if he wins the Australian Open – for now.
He can reach a maximum of 6875 points if he wins the title, but would still be behind No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas (minimum 7650, reached 8450 with a title), No. 3 Alex Zverev (currently 7780), No. 2 Daniil Medvedev (minimum 10125, reached 10925 with a title) and n°1 Novak Djokovic (11015).
But last year’s Australian Open was played three weeks later than usual, meaning points last longer.
If Medvedev wins tonight’s final, he can overtake Djokovic for the world No.1 ranking on Monday February 14 – if the Russian plays and wins the next tournament in Rotterdam, while Djokovic remains inactive.
If Medvedev wins tonight’s final but doesn’t play in Rotterdam, while Djokovic remains inactive, the Russian will become the world No.1 on Monday February 21.
Medvedev is trying to become Russia’s third world No. 1 after Yevgeny Kafelnikov (world No. 1 in 1999) and Marat Safin (world No. 1 in 2000-01).
Nadal’s chances of returning to world No. 1 will improve in the second half of the season as he hasn’t played at Wimbledon or the US Open since 2019, and therefore isn’t defending on points.