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Always capricious, history decided to match three phenomena in the same era that feed off each other and do not give up. Some stay with the aesthetics of Roger Federer (40 years old), others with the technical neatness of Novak Djokovic (34) and there are those who defend tooth and nail that the epic of Rafael Nadal (35) is unmatched. There are, however, those who opt for a hybrid solution: Why choose one when you can keep all three? In any case, the one who rules today and heads the historical list is the Spaniard, whose curriculum reflects successes of all colors, including an Olympic gold (achieved at the Rio 2016 Games, together with his current coach, Marc López) which its two direct rivals lack.

However, beyond titles or figures -edges and debate everywhere: total trophies, weeks on the throne, Masters 1000 record, Masters Cups…-, Nadal has an intangible that is priceless: his ability to transcend . Universal example, there is no top athlete who does not mention him among his references for his ability to overcome and overcome endless physical adversities. A model competitor, the Spaniard has played in 63 majors, of which he has won 21; that is, it has conquered a third of the majors who has played Yesterday, the statistics of the Big Data It reflected before the final a high victory percentage for Daniil Medvedev, 64%-36% in his favor, but the champion contradicted the algorithms.

This Australian Open was going to be, a priori, Djokovic’s tournament. However, the Balkan was scalded out of Melbourne – unvaccinated and expelled the day before the tournament for having entered the country illegally, according to judicial authorities – and was unable to defend his kingdom, where he has lifted the trophy nine times. It was the Open de Nole, from the transversal noise, until the ball began to fly in Melbourne Park. Number one offside, after an unpleasant prologue that uncovered the seams of almost everyone (himself, Australia, the local tennis federation…), the final frame was won by Nadal, who yesterday rewrote the story and struck a blow from nut to the great three-way fight.

A dance that, in reality, in recent times has really become a story of two. Federer’s knee has prostrated the Swiss in the infirmary and his return to the courts is a mystery, given that he made an attempt last year and was barely able to play 13 games, the last of them against the Pole Hubert Hurkacz in the quarterfinals. Wimbledon final.

From the trident to the duopoly

That defeat occurred on July 7. The one from Basel decided to stop definitively, since the previous year his journey had been even narrower -six games, all of them at the Australian Open- and the response of the joint after going through the operating room again was not good. Nothing to do with the previous baggage, his last year at full capacity: 63 games and four titles in 2019.

With Federer in the infirmary, Nadal and Djokovic have won 13 of the last 15 majors. There have only been two interferences in the duopoly, those of the Austrian Dominic Thiem, at the 2020 US Open, which meant the resumption of the circuit after the first impact of the pandemic, and that of Medvedev last year on the same stage.

Nadal participated in neither of the two appointments. The first absence responded to a voluntary resignation —“my heart says that this is not the time to travel there,” he reasoned— and the second to the chronic injury that drags on his left foot, accentuated since the middle of last season —“I have a year suffering much more than he should” – and that finally forced him to stop permanently in the summer.

Of the decades, 61 large out of 74

In February 2018, after the last Australian Open that Federer won, the litigation was as follows: the Swiss 20 titles, 16 on Nadal’s shelf and Djokovic’s tail, with 12. However, from then on the Swiss gripped — two match points against the Serb in the Wimbledon final the following year—and the fight turned into a one-on-one in which Nole gave a full-fledged sprint, winning eight since then. majors: three in Australia, three in London, one in Paris and one in New York. Meanwhile, the Spaniard has collected five in the same strip: three on the French clay, one on the New York cement and now Australia. Federer’s locker has been frozen, turned 40 and with no sign that it can reappear in the short or medium term.

“I don’t care if I come back in 2022 or 2023,” he broadcast in November, anticipating that he probably won’t be able to play the next edition of Wimbledon in July. “I know the end is near, but I would like to play at least a couple of important games again,” added the great gentleman with the racket, who logically opened the account with his victory on the London pitch in 2003. At that time, Nadal was already preparing his assault on the professional circuit and joined the race in 2005, beating Mariano Puerta in the Bois de Boulogne. Djokovic was made to wait. The Balkan broke in in 2008, in Melbourne, and then spent two years in white before achieving an extraordinary harvest between 2011 and 2016: 11 trophies.

Later, both he, Nadal and Federer suffered their respective crises – the anxieties of the Spanish in 2015, the decompression of the Serbian after finally winning Roland Garros (2016) and the physical decline of the Swiss – although they continued to exercise with an iron fist. Action and reaction, constantly. Between the three of them, they have built the most exciting story in the history of their sport, with undeniable dominance over the last two decades. There are 61 wins in 74 major tournaments. Incredible but true. A paranormal tour. Only nine have been involved intruders: Andy Murray (3), Stan Wawrinka (3), Andy Roddick, Gastón Gaudio, Marat Safin, Juan Martín del Potro, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev.

With Roland Garros on the horizon in the spring (from May 22 to June 5) and with Djokovic’s future in the air due to vaccination, Nadal is the king of kings.

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