Twenty-one cannot be any sweeter for Rafa. The Spaniard on Sunday eyes history, a 21st Grand Slam title, at least five months before any of his competitors even have a chance. Rafael Nadal plays the Australian Open men’s singles final against US Open champion Daniil Medvedev.

Ahead of the final on Sunday, Nadal’s uncle and former coach admitted that it’s great to see him in the final after not knowing whether he would play just a few days before the first Open of the year. 

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“Yes, I’m surprised because I remember when three days before the start, Rafa called my youngest son to hit a few balls after being quarantined due to coronavirus. At nine o’clock, during training, he said, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to go or not because at the moment, my condition is not good enough for the Australian Open,” Toni Nadal said, as per 

Nadal had a pretty rough 2021. Altough he won two ATP titles, the 20 Grand Slam-winner failed to reach any major final. From a left-foot injury to COVID-19 to missing the US Open, th 35-year-old saw it all. 

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Now he is just one win away from history. 

“For me, it’s all about the Australian Open more than anything else,” Nadal said. “Being very honest, for me its much more important to have the chance to play tennis than win the 21, no?”

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Nadal is tied for the record, 20, with the absent Djokovic — a nine-time Australian Open champion who had his visa revoked for failing to meet the country’s strict COVID-19 requirements — and Roger Federer, who still recovering from right knee surgery.

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He last Grand Slam win was the French Open title in 2020 and about 15 months after, Nadal has a chance of getting his hands on the silverware again. Will he be able to do it? Will the one-and-a-half year worth struggle, pain and hard work finally pay off? Only time will tell.