November 13, 2019
Never write off Rafael Nadal!
The ultimate tennis warrior’s amazing spirit simply cannot be conquered. Even when you think he has almost given up.
How on earth did an injury-stricken Rafa pull this one out of the bag to stay in the fight for world number one?
He was 1-5 down in the decider. It was all over. Or so we thought.
A modest Nadal explained: ‘Honestly I was super-lucky. Daniil was playing much better than me in the third. It is one-in-a-thousand to win from where I was.
‘But when I got the first break-back to go 3-5, I knew I had a chance.
‘I love this sport and with this support it was impossible to not fight. Now I need to win the match against Stefanos Tsitsipas.’
If he wins that match and progresses to the final, then Rafa ends the year as world number one.
It looked as though Nadal wasn’t going to be able to generate his customary power for quite long enough to prevent a revenge bid by Daniil Medvedev.
Nadal, you will recall, prevailed in the US Open final a few months ago in another thriller. That time he had to hang on in there. This time it was an impossible comeback that sealed it.
Rafa looked completely out of the contest. Time to lick his numerous wounds beckoned.
It seemed only the progress of Novak Djokovic would decide who ends the year as number one. It didn’t work out that way.
Nadal produced a monumental effort at the start of the second set to break and turn the match around, temporarily at least.
But Medvedev took a lengthy pause to do exactly the same to Rafa at the start of the third.
The young Russian took his eye off the ball later in the set. Some will say he choked. Whatever the explanation, the score remains the same.
Nadal triumphed 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). Back from the dead.
Poor Nadal even had to field a question earlier in the week as to whether marriage had somehow blunted his tennis performance. He answered that one with the disdain it deserved. On and off the court.
Rafa reportedly has a hand injury, a foot injury, previous abdominal trouble and two Grand Slams under his belt in 2019.
He could have succumbed with pride this time. He refused.
Well done Nadal! If he finishes the year as world number one, he will certainly have earned the right.
Ironically, Medvedev still has a say in that because he also needs to beat Alexander Zverev for Rafa to progress, after Tsitsipas beat the German.
Even if Nadal doesn’t reach the final, Djokovic would still have to win the whole tournament to take back world number one.
But Rafa will be sure of top spot come what may if does reach the showpiece.
We can’t wait to see Nadal at Wimbledon 2020, where the straight knock-out format makes life so much simpler!
You can bet he will put up a massive fight in his bid for yet another Grand Slam. It is clearly in his DNA to fight until the very end.