Not done yet, Rafael Nadal says his epic, “most unexpected” grand slam triumph at Melbourne Park has given him renewed strength and confidence to continue chasing tennis’s biggest prizes.
At 35, and after playing only two matches in the last six months of 2021 due to a debilitating foot injury that he feared might end his glittering career, Nadal pulled off an incredible five-set Australian Open final escape on Rod Laver Arena.
The indomitable Spaniard needed almost five-and-a-half hours to rally from two sets down to deny Russian world No.2 Daniil Medvedev 2-6 6-7 6-4 6-4 7-5 in the second-longest final in Australian Open history.
He had to sit down during the trophy presentation, leaving many to wonder how much longer the baseline warrior can continue putting his battered body through such physical trauma.
Nadal, though, put paid to any thoughts of him slowing down in the jubilant aftermath to his record-setting 21st grand slam singles success.
“Of course, after this month of practising hard, playing very long matches, the foot was able to hold all this stress, of course I feel more confident that I going to have the chance to keep going, keep fighting, keep enjoying this beautiful sport,” he said on Monday.
“That’s what make me happy. I just feel confident now that I going to have my chances to keep playing tennis for a while, yeah.”
The revelation is a far cry from just a month ago when the former world No.1 wondered if he’d even make it to Melbourne, or feared worse than that during his depressing time off court last year.
“My position is completely different,” Nadal said.
“We were trying things. And for a long period of time without any success, with zero success.
“After all the things that I went through all my career, of course at my age the doubts are there.
“Knowing that you have an injury that you can’t recover from that, of course the doubts are there. Mentally is much tougher.
“Not to be able to do the things that you really need to do to try to be back for such a long time, yeah, it’s tough, it’s painful.
“In terms of going every day on the gym, on the recover, on the swimming pool, on the practice court.
“Mentally sometimes it is heartbreaking. All the spirit, all the working, the working, discipline, every single day make a big difference for me.
“I feel very lucky that I have a great team next to me that supported all the time. I have a great family always next to me, in the good and especially in the low moments.
“Without them, I will not be here.”
Nadal plans to rest and recover before planning his next grand slam assault in Paris in may, where the claycourt colossus will shoot for a mind-boggling 14th French Open crown.
If he pulls that off, Nadal will suddenly be two slams clear of great rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the all-time men’s major titles race.
“I don’t know what can happen on clay or not,” Nadal said.
“I have hopefully some events before clay. Just enjoying these moments, hope to share with the family this unforgettable moment, then I’m going to think what’s next for me.”