Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will be paying very close attention when Rafael Nadal takes on Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final on Sunday, according to Eurosport expert Mats Wilander.
Having beaten Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 in a relatively straightforward semi-final, Nadal is one victory away from winning a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title. He faces an extremely tough test against Medvedev, however, with the Russian coming through a fiery clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas to triumph 7-6(5) 4-6 6-4 6-1.
With Federer and Djokovic tied alongside the current world No. 5 on 20 career Grand Slams as things stand, Wilander is certain that Nadal’s rivals will be watching his tournament decider against Medvedev with interest. Speaking in the Eurosport Cube, the Swedish former world No. 1 said: “Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are for sure following these finals very closely.
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“First of all they are lovers of tennis. I think they will most probably watch it because it’s fun and [they’ll think]: ‘Ah, yeah, that’s what Rafa used to do against me’ or ‘Look at this Daniil Medvedev, is he better than we ever were?’
“Then I think there’s the tactical tennis pro that’s still out there [thinking]: ‘What can I learn from what Medvedev does to Nadal, or Nadal does to Medvedev?’ So I’m sure Federer and Djokovic are both watching.”
Wilander also expressed his relief at Nadal’s resurgence in form following a difficult 2021 in which he struggled with a recurring foot injury. “I think [if] Rafael Nadal [ends up] winning on Sunday, the most important part for that would be that he’s back at the top of the game, that he’s back trusting his body, his confidence has come back and he’s able to stay with these much younger guys in this game that just becomes quicker and quicker,” said Wilander.
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“One day, when he’s in his mid-fifties, he’ll start thinking about how many majors he has won, but I don’t think that’s on his mind at all at the moment.”
Wilander is not the only tennis great who is glad to see Nadal back to his best. Speaking on Eurosport Germany’s Matchball Becker show in the aftermath of Medvedev’s win against Tsitsipas, Boris Becker said: “For me, the two best players are in the final.
“For Nadal, I’m happy because I’m a big fan of him and I was worried after his surgery. But Nadal wouldn’t be Nadal if he didn’t have a chance to win every time he plays a tournament.
“Nadal has earned his status over the years. He says the right things even after the match. You can’t say that about Medvedev, who is very honest. That’s not always good.
“But Daniil also earned a few hearts here, especially with his fighting performance.”
Interviewed on court following his semi-final victory, Medvedev echoed Wilander by bringing up the prospect of a 21st Grand Slam for Nadal. The world No. 2 stopped Djokovic from reaching the milestone first by beating him in the US Open final back in September.
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“What’s funny is again I’m going to play someone going for the 21st Slam,” he said. “I guess last time Rafa was watching… I think Novak will be watching this one in two days also.
“Grand Slam finals are special. I’m ready. I know that Rafa is a very strong player, I know I will need to show my best to try to win this match.”
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