‘Rafael Nadal winning 2022 Australian Open was one of greatest achievements in sports history’

Ewan West
Nadal wins the Australian Open
Nadal wins the Australian Open

Renowned coach and former player Heinz Gunthardt has described Rafael Nadal’s victory at the 2022 Australian Open as “one of the greatest achievements in sports history.”

Gunthardt, Switzerland’s Billie Jean King Cup captain, used the example of Nadal to illustrate his claim that older players can decline “very quickly.”

Nadal produced an incredible comeback to defeat Daniil Medvedev in five sets in an epic final at the 2022 Australian Open that lasted five hours and 24 minutes. This made it the second-longest Major final in history behind the 2012 Australian Open title match, where Nadal fell to Djokovic in a brilliant five-set marathon.

The Spaniard, who was 35 at the time, recovered after trailing by two sets to love – and 2-3, 0-40 on his serve in the third set – to overcome Medvedev and complete one of the most remarkable triumphs of his career.

It was Nadal’s 21st of his 22 Grand Slam titles and the first he had won since 2020, after he had struggled with a foot injury that forced him to miss most of the second half of the 2021 season.

Speaking in an interview with Tennis Magazin, Gunthardt discussed how older top players can often have a rapid drop-off physically and suggested this has happened to Nadal.

“In the end, it often happens very quickly. If you look at Nadal winning the Australian Open last year, it was one of the greatest achievements in sports history,” said the Swiss.

“But achieving something like that requires additional energy, which as an older player you can no longer replace after a certain day. Experience shows that it happens really quickly. You maintain and maintain the level – and suddenly it doesn’t work anymore.

“You slow down, there are always twenty or thirty centimetres missing. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s worlds apart. It makes a difference whether I can accelerate the ball myself or just hobble around on the defensive end.”

Nadal won his most recent Grand Slam at the 2022 French Open with a straight-set victory over Casper Ruud in the final. The Mallorcan had to take multiple injections to numb the pain in his foot during the tournament, though, and has struggled with various injury issues since.

Gunthardt coached 22-time Grand Slam champion Steffi Graf from 1992 until her retirement in 1999, an also worked with former world No1 Ana Ivanovic. He won five ATP singles titles and two Major doubles titles during a playing career that spanned from 1976 to 1990.

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