Tennis legend John McEnroe has been the last to surrender to the great feat achieved by Rafa Nadal at the Australian Open, where he became the first male tennis player to reach 21 Grand Slam titles after defeating Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final.
Speaking to Eurosport, the chain in which he has been collaborating during the Australian Open, McEnroe He highlighted Nadal’s great comeback after everything the Balearic Islander has been through and compared it to the one he suffered against Ivan Lendl. “I had one of those comebacks like Nadal did. I was up two sets against Ivan Lendl at Roland Garros in 1984 and I lost. Taking into account what has happened… Nadal has not been able to play for months due to the operation on his foot, then he caught COVID and then it happened with Djokovic, who should have crossed paths with him in the semifinals. And seeing him do that and how he did it… I would like to say that it was the best comeback since the one Lendl made me. And it was bigger than the one Djokovic did against Tsitsipas last year at Roland Garros.”
‘Big Mac’ also emphasized what Medvedev’s mistakes were that led to Nadal’s comeback and the key role played by the public in the Balearic Islands’ triumph. “The turning point was 2-3 and 0-40 with Rafa’s serve in the third set. It seemed that Rafa was deflated. Not resigned, because he never is, but it looked like he was going to lose in three sets. I think Medvedev played a couple of weak points, he was confident because he could taste the victory. And so he let the crowd back into the game and that was a big factor. From there he began to show his nervousness, he was frustrated with the public and that was worse for him. That was the turning point. When he let Rafa into the game, he also let the crowd back in and then there was one of the biggest comebacks I’ve ever seen.”
McEnroe also highlighted the change in Medvedev’s character after the public turned to Nadal from the third round. “In the third set Medvedev showed signs of weakness. He complained to the referee, started gesturing to the crowd and hated when people applauded him when he double faulted. I know what he was going through, he was doing his best and he wanted respect. It doesn’t mean that it’s wrong for people to support Nadal, because he is the greatest, very humble, a great human being and a great player. He’s understandable, but you don’t want people booing your failings.”
The American also highlighted that Nadal has qualities that no tennis player has ever shown and that he now plays much smarter. “Nadal has the heart of a lion and the greatest quality that any athlete should have: the will to give everything you have no matter what happens, win, lose or draw. Nadal plays very intelligently. He knows when to give up a point or two, something he hadn’t done before, but he’s still in the game until the end and the youngsters aren’t at that level. I don’t think there is anyone with that consistency. Djokovic has come close to him, but I don’t think there is anyone in the history of tennis who has been like Nadal.”
Finally, McEnroe was asked about the particular battle between Nadal, Federer and Djokovic to see who wins the most Grand Slam titles, revealing his doubts about the Swiss and also about Djokovic ahead of Roland Garros, where he could not play be vaccinated “I think it’s difficult for Federer to win another Grand Slam. How long is he going to play? But we didn’t expect Rafa to win here either. With Novak, everything is up in the air and even more so if he doesn’t play at Roland Garros. you know what happens: that Rafa will reach 22”.