Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Matteo Berrettini of Italy in their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Rusty and undertrained, Rafael Nadal took his chances and played the Australian Open – and made the final
A slight favorite, Daniil Medvedev returns to the final after losing to Novak Djokovic in 2021
Read on as we break down the matchup, and make a prediction
Because of injury, Rafael Nadal had played just two Tour matches since last year’s French Open.
If you bet him he would travel Down Under, win a warm-up event and then go all the way to the Australian Open final, he’d have taken it in a heartbeat.
But can he go all the way and win only his second Australian Open title, his first since he was a 22-year-old back in 2009?
That’s going to be a big challenge.
Nadal vs Medvedev Odds
 Rafael Nadal (ESP)
O 39.5 (-120)
 Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
U 39.5 (-110)
Odds as of Jan. 29 at Caesars Sportsbook
Medvedev’s Path to Final
It hasn’t been an easy road to the final for Daniil Medvedev, who has been out of sorts and testy through a number of very tough matches in the heat and humidity.
The second-round match against Nick Kyrgios, despite being done in four sets, was exhausting on every level. Kyrgios hasn’t played much recently, but on his day he can beat anyone (including Medvedev). So it was a nervy, early test.
Medvedev went from “what would Novak do” to “what would Kyrgios do” real quick. https://t.co/TXGf4wy37g
— Meddy to save tennis (@Malaikoftaisbae) January 28, 2022
He wasn’t particularly kind to his third-round opponent, Maxime Cressy, whose old-school serve-volley style had him tied up in knots – at least for awhile.
Young Guns Give Medvedev Fits
And if he was down and out against young Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime in the quarters, he somehow found some energy. Just when it seemed he was about to pack his bags, the 25-year-old managed to get through in five sets.
MEDVEDEV BLOWS UP! 😡😡
The Russian has sensationally accused Tsitsipas of being coached and has GIVEN IT to the umpire over it too! 🤯🤯#AusOpen – live on Channel 9, 9Now and Stan Sport. pic.twitter.com/8Xa3qOjvnf
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 28, 2022
The semifinal against Stefanos Tsitsipas set up to be a corker. And it was, for a time. Medvedev got sidetracked early on, rudely conversing with the chair umpire about Tsitsipas’s father/coach Apostolos’s constant chatter towards his son.
But after that, he rolled to a four-set victory.
Nadal vs Medvedev Head-to-Head
35 (june 3, 1986)
25 (Feb. 11, 1996)
Career ATP Singles Titles
Career Grand Slam Singles Titles
No. 1 (Aug. 18, 208)
Career High Ranking
No. 2 (March 15, 2021)
Career Prize Money
2021 Won/Loss record
Career Head to Head
Not the Favorite, Nadal Builds to the Final
In sharp contrast to Medvedev, who clearly has been feeling the pressure of being the highest-ranked player in the tournament after Novak Djokovic was deported, Nadal has been playing as though this is all bonus time.
He thought he was done against Denis Shapovalov in the quarterfinals, later pronouncing himself destroyed physically in the tough conditions.
Somehow, he found a way.
And his quarterfinal win over Matteo Berrettini was a walk in the park compared to what most expected. Berrettini just didn’t bring it on Friday.
The Mallorcan arrives in the final as the underdog, but should be fresher physically despite giving up a decade in age. It might not be enough.
Rafael Nadal vs Daniil Medvedev Match History
ATP Finals (SF)
3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3
ATP Finals (RR)
6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (4)
US Open (F)
7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4
Masters Canada (F)
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Nadal Leads Head-to-Head, But barely
Nadal is 3-1 lifetime against Medvedev. But a look at the last three scorelines tells you what he’ll face.
Mededev is twice the player he was in 2019. And even then, he gave Nadal everything he could handle.
The Russian stands even further back than Nadal has at times in recent years. It’s very hard to get even a lefty wide serve past him.
His flat backhand isn’t as bothered as some by Nadal’s heavy crosscourt topspin forehand crosscourt. Medvedev is 6-foot-6; high-bouncing balls don’t bother him too much.
Ultimately, though, the match will be decided on the physical.
Does the 35-year-old Nadal have five more sets in him? Probably not, but the effort won’t be lacking.
Medvedev has played a lot of tennis, and he’s had a few more pieces of kinesio tape appear on various body parts in the latter stages. So he’s not fresh, either.
A few interesting props: Nadal to win the first set (+150); Nadal in five sets (+650); a five-set match (+245).
Best Bet: Medvedev wins, and both players take a set (+150)