Down but never out

In a stunning display of grit, determination, and athleticism, Rafael Nadal of Spain won the Australian Open last night. He defeated Daniil Medvedev of Russia in a 5½-hour, five-set thriller.

Nadal lost the first two sets and came back to sweep the last three. It was the first time he had done that in many years. I think I heard one of the TV analysts say the last time was in 2007.

The second set would have crushed just about anyone else. Nadal was up something like 5 games to 3, and yet Medvedev forced him into a tiebreaker. Then Nadal had two mini-breaks in the tiebreaker, but he still succumbed.

You can imagine how he felt heading back to the locker room down two sets. And that second set, he should have won! The TV put up a graphic to the effect that he had less than a 10 percent chance of prevailing. To summon up the willpower just to stay competitive at that point was the mark of a champion.

It was a muggy night in Melbourne, and hot at the 7:30 p.m start. The two players were soaked in sweat within the first five minutes. About halfway through the match, just as the tide was turning, Medvedev started getting rubdowns from a trainer on his left quad. I was getting cramps just watching the match on a tablet in the middle of the night. At 5 a.m. our time, I gave up and let the video recorder capture the rest. I managed to watch the last set and a half without spoilers.

Nadal now has his 21st major tournament trophy, putting him one ahead of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Some people might put an asterisk on Nadal's win because No-Vax was deported. But I won't. It's just like any other absence due to injury. The Djoker has a common medical condition known as lack of judgment.

Of Nadal's 21 Grand Slam wins, this is only his second in Australia. His first was in 2009.

Anyway, I've watched a lot of tennis, but I can't ever remember seeing as dramatic a win as Rafa pulled off. Both he and Medvedev should be thanked for giving the tennis world something to shout about. It was truly a marvel.