Australian Open: Rafael Nadal closing in on Serena Williams’ insane Grand Slam record

Rafael Nadal closing on Serena Williams’ insane Grand Slam final record

Rafael Nadal has the chance to win his 21st Grand Slam title, more than 16 years after winning his first at the French Open in 2005.

Nadal produced some thrilling tennis to beat Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in four sets and set up a final with world number two Daniil Medvedev on Sunday.

If the Spaniard were to beat Medvedev, he would close in on Serena Williams’ unprecedented record of the longest time between an individual player’s first and last major victories.

Williams won her first Grand Slam at the 1999 US Open –– beating number one seed Martina Hingis in the final.

18 years later, the US star won her 23rd major title at the Australian Open in 2017 –– where it was later revealed she was around two months pregnant at the time.

The 40-year-old remains in search of a record-equalling 24th major triumph but has lost her past four Grand Slam finals.

Meanwhile, Nadal’s victory against Berrettini means he has now reached 29 Slam finals –– two behind the record held jointly by Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

The 35-year-old also has 20 major wins –– the joint-most of any male player in the Open Era, alongside Djokovic and Federer.

Nadal, Medvedev

It’s a remarkable achievement for the former world number one, who was almost forced to retire a matter of months ago with a foot injury.

And the Spaniard is not only continuing to win matches but is playing some of the best tennis of his career.

“The first two sets were some of the best I’ve played for a long time,” he said after his semi-final win.

“Against a difficult opponent, a great opponent, one of the best of the world, I was able to play I think at a very high level for a long time.

“I had to suffer and I had to fight but it means a lot to be in the final again.”

Nadal’s only win in Melbourne came in 2009 and if he were to beat Medvedev on Sunday, he would take the outright lead over Djokovic and Federer in terms of Slam victories.

Given his unparalleled success on clay and the possibility that neither Djokovic nor Federer will compete at Roland-Garros, Nadal could well be on 22 major wins by the time Wimbledon comes around.

In this way, it’s important to remember how quickly times can change. Only weeks ago, it seemed inevitable that Djokovic would win his 10th Australian Open title.

Now, Nadal is rolling back the years and reminding everyone that it’s foolish to write him off.

And if Nadal does break records on the Rod Laver Arena come Sunday, this may be all the motivation and belief Williams needs to muster one final challenge at creating her own history.

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