May 18, 2022 6:19 pm

Rafael Nadal – Daniil Medvedev, the best final of the Australian Open: the hero and the villain, like in a Hollywood movie

The hero and the villain. The legend admired by (almost) everyone, ready to give the final battle when weeks ago he was resting on a bed, against the subject who avoids endearing himself, as an athlete, as a man. It turns out to be a beauty of a program –the good one, face to face with the evil one–, as the closing of the traumatic first big of the season. Until a handful of days ago, there was talk of other things: court, plea, Covid-19, positive, vaccine, anti-vaccine, lawyers and even the worm hotel.

Novak Djokovic lo hizo. And Melbourne – one of the most prosperous and pleasant cities to live in, according to specialized sites and world rankings – allowed it. Time passes too fast. This Sunday, from 5.30 in Argentina, two planets will collide in the tennis universe. That is reinvented, with the same surnames.

Novak Djokovic prepares to take his seat on a flight to Belgrade in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on January 17, deported from Australia after losing a legal battle to stay and defend his Open title despite not having been vaccinated against Covid- 19.

Rafael Nadal, the Majorcan 35 years excited as a child, he returns to a final and is a shot away from being the greatest of all time (isn’t he, already?): he will give a huge if he stays with the Australian Open and sticks his head out between Nole and Roger Federer with 21 grand.

Nadal’s last victory

Daniil Medvedev is the russian of ten years younger featuring classic Hollywood movies: smart, villainous, ruthless. Owner of an indecipherable hand, an unruly head (an extraordinary response to those who say that the Russians always keep their minds cold). He is one win away – and some numerical details to be worked out in the next two weeks – from reaching the throne, world number 1.

Medvedev’s last victory

The program is ideal. Or does everyone want to see the good guys win, the politically correct, the gentlemen of sport? Provocative, on the track and in life, Medvedev can be angry with the public one day, and the next, be on the verge of disqualification for the anger he unleashes on a judge. In the semifinals, he defeated the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 (5), 6-4, 4-6 and 6-1.

At the height of the revolutions, Medvedev crossed paths with the umpire of the match, the Spanish Jaume Campistol. The Russian was angry that Tsitispas’s father gave –according to his perception– indications in the middle of the points, something forbidden. “Are you stupid? Can your father speak at all points?”Medvedev protested. Then, he yelled at her twice, “Your father can speak at all points!” The number 2 in the ranking was furious. “Are you going to answer my question? How can you be so bad and be in a Grand Slam semi-final! Look at me! I’m talking to you!” he continued.

Daniil Medvedev, in a usual moment of lack of control, this time against the Spanish chair umpire Jaume Campistol.
Daniil Medvedev, in a usual moment of lack of control, this time against the Spanish chair umpire Jaume Campistol.Mark Metcalfe – Getty Images AsiaPac

The job done, he attempted a brain scan. “I don’t think bad emotions help me much. Many times I lose the game because of this. As soon as I did, I thought ‘that was a big mistake’. But I am happy that I managed to refocus at the beginning of the third set. I did my best and I’m happy it worked out.” Later, he referred to “what’s funny” and who will watch the final on television…

“I am going to play against one of the greatest. The funny thing is that I am going to play again against someone who is seeking his 21st Grand Slam tournament.. I don’t know where Rafa saw the final last year; I guess I was watching her on TV. And I think Novak will be watching this final as well. Grand finals are special. I am ready”, commented the Muscovite.

A quiet celebration from Daniil Medvedev, very different from how his mood was during the semi-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
A quiet celebration from Daniil Medvedev, very different from how his mood was during the semi-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.Daniel Pockett – Getty Images AsiaPac

The man who measures 1.98 meters and was born in Moscow stopped Djokovic’s momentum in the last US Open, which would have also generated the complete menu of greats in the same season for the Serbian, owner of the tournament for long and traumatic days. In 2021, the current number 2 in the world had an exceptional season. In the Grand Slam tournaments he signed these performances: final at the Australian Open (lost to Djokovic), fourth at Roland Garros (stopped by Tsitsipas), eighth at Wimbledon (surpassed by Hubert Hurkacz) and first major title at the US Open ( victory over Djokovic in the final).

And now it keeps the focus high. It has details that bring it closer to the nostalgic Big 3, and also to the four member, Andy Murray. He already plays like a number 1.

On the way to the final, Medvedev had his slumps. Beyond his excesses, he does not always have maximum tension. He is the favourite, although that seems like an exaggeration if Nadal appears on the other side of the net. Favorite against one of the greatest of all time?

Pure power in this image, Rafael Nadal is on his way to the greatest.
Pure power in this image, Rafael Nadal is on his way to the greatest.WILLIAM WEST – AFP

Last year, Nadal did not play for six months due to a left foot injury, and also suffered from Covid-19 in December. Not only did he not know if he would be able to play in Melbourne: he was not unaware, for sure, if he would continue with his wonderful career. “I don’t know if it’s going to be my last chance or not. A short time ago it seemed that there would be no other chance and now we are here. Honestly, I don’t know what’s at stake for me”, warned the Spaniard.

“It’s a semi-miracle. I am incredibly happy and enjoying this moment. That does not take away from me that I am excited and wanting to make this last effort, to give myself an opportunity”, he added, after beat Mateo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in 2 hours and 55 minutes.

The original Marca cover, with a half-shown Nadal.
The original Marca cover, with a half-shown Nadal.

Weeks ago he had been as sincere as he usually is: “I had many doubts about whether or not I would play the tournament. Not only the Australian Open, but also if he was going to return to the circuit due to the continuous discomfort he had in his foot. Today there are still doubts. Like I said the other day, it is an injury that we cannot heal, so we have to find a way to control the pain to be able to play. That’s the goal.”

With or without pain, Rafa is an example of overcoming, permanence. Greatness. A model that can be inspired when everything seems lost.

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