January 21, 2022
Rafael Nadal looks a serious contender for the Australian Open title after he overcame some sparkling tennis from Karen Khachanov.
But defending champion Naomi Osaka squandered match points and was beaten by the determined American, Amanda Anisimova.
Rafael Nadal was simply staggering at times. Wimbledon 2022 awaits the great man in late June!
He just displayed defence that defied time and physics Down Under. Truly breath-taking entertainment from the ultimate sporting gladiator.
Incredible Rafa said: ‘It’s been a very special week for me coming back.
‘Tonight I played against a a great player and I think a great friend on tour. This was the best I’ve played since I came back. I played more aggressively.
‘I’ve been through some very tough times in the last year-and-a-half. I had doubts [about coming back] every single day.
‘I was waiting to find a solution with the doctor. With the foot it was much tougher. Every day on the court and in the gym without an improvement! It was much tougher.
‘But this victory gives me energy to keep going. It means everything and thank you everybody.’
It was such a dramatic day at the Australian Open. Khachanov played some superb tennis but still ended the evening as a shell-shocked loser.
And that’s a measure of how well Rafael Nadal is starting to shape up after his painful period in the wilderness.
Just think what Nadal could achieve at Wimbledon 2022!
In the key second game of the fourth set, the Spaniard put up the greatest defence this writer has ever seen on a tennis court – even greater than we’re used to seeing from Novak Djokovic.
Nadal scrambled beyond the corners to retrieve seemingly unstoppable forehands from the huge Russian.
By staying in the point against all odds, Rafa dumbfounded the younger man. It appeared impossible and Khachanov was caught unawares.
To seal the break, Nadal pulled off more miraculous defence out wide, before unleashing a winner in the very next instant.
It was arguably one of the most staggering games in the whole of Nadal’s long and illustrious career.
Khachanov’s spirit was broken and Nadal romped to an eventual 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory.
Taking into account his age and what he has been through, Rafa showed extraordinary strength of character.
He had faced almost as phenomenal defiance from his opponent earlier in the match.
At one stage in the second set, Khachanov was sat on the floor after a fall – and still won the point with a stunning pass.
The popular Russian milked the applause and wondered whether he might achieve a much-needed break-back.
On the very next point, Khachanov prevailed after a bruising 30-stroke rally. It had the crowd gasping with appreciation.
And yet Karen lost the game because Nadal simply wouldn’t be pushed off course by any level of resistance.
Rafa saw three successive aces fly past him a few games later.
For all the fancy serving, Nadal still won that second set with ease.
Khachanov hit back and used all his physical power to take the third set.
‘I was too far back on the baseline in the third but then I changed the dynamic,’ Rafa said later.
But the way Nadal defended to achieve the first break of the fourth was simply sensational.
Rafael Nadal is the original sporting warrior. We can’t wait to see him at Wimbledon 2022!
Whatever rivals throw at him, he keeps bouncing back!
Perhaps only Daniil Medvedev or Alexander Zverev can get the better of the veteran Spaniard in Sydney this year.
Time will tell but it’s going to be a lot of fun finding out!
One thing’s for certain. Nadal’s return to the All England Club this summer is already keenly anticipated.
As Rafa seeks to win the race to become the greatest of all time, he must feel another Wimbledon title is within is powers now.
There was a time relatively recently when Naomi Osaka was setting her sights lasting greatness. She wanted to emulate the great Serena Williams and rewrite the history books herself.
But Osaka failed to progress and defend her Australian Open title. Even though she won the first set against Anisimova and almost seemed to be through.
The Japanese star had two match points to clinch the decider but lacked her old ruthlessness when it mattered.
Osaka said: ‘I fought her for every point. I can’t be sad about that. I’m not God. I can’t win every match.’
It was a big victory for the plucky American, though. She can reflect with great satisfaction on her 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-5) comeback.
‘Honestly, I’m so grateful that I was able to play so well today,’ Amanda said.
Her reward is a scintillating showdown with home favourite Ashleigh Barty.
If she can unsettle the Wimbledon champion early in the contest, there might be a glimmer of hope for her.
Whatever happens, we are loving the return of Rafael Nadal to Grand Slam tennis in front of noisy crowds.
It makes us long for Wimbledon 2022.
Make sure you book your seats so you can start looking forward to it too!