Muguruza, Badosa, Swiatek in awe of Rafa

 - Reem Abulleil

WTA stars heap praise on Nadal after record-breaking triumph in Melbourne.

Garbine Muguruza, Dubai 2022©Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

The dust may have settled after Rafael Nadal’s tremendous comeback victory over Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final last month but the conversation surrounding the Spaniard’s historic 21st major triumph has yet to die down.

Nadal pulled ahead in the men’s race for Grand Slam supremacy and he did it by climbing back from two-sets-to-love down against world No.2 Medvedev in a thrilling finale at Melbourne Park.

Just a few weeks earlier, the 13-time Roland-Garros champion was contemplating retirement as a chronic foot injury continued to wreak havoc on his career.

A bout of Covid-19 further complicated his preparations for the Australian Open and when he made the trip Down Under, he hadn’t played an official match since an early exit in Washington DC in August.

None of that mattered in the end as Nadal kicked off his 2022 campaign by amassing a 10-0 win-loss record that saw him clinch the Melbourne 250 title before his record-breaking success at the Australian Open.

Nadal’s latest odds-defying accomplishment has been a hot topic in the UAE this week, where the leading women of the WTA are in action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Rafael Nadal & Daniil Medvedev / Open d'Australie 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

A testament to his resilience

Former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza hailed her compatriot’s “amazing” run and felt like the Australian Open final epitomised everything that is special about Nadal.

“Oh my God, that match. I like started in the morning and I left and came back and left and came back. It was the whole time on. It was a forever match. I don't get to see that many matches whether it's time, training or schedule. This one I got to see,” Muguruza said in Dubai on Sunday.

“Yeah, really impressed. I think he really showed his essence in that match. I feel like we've all known him not only because he's great, but because of his resilience and strength and everything.

“I think that was a perfect example that he's the best at coming back and fighting and staying there. Man, it was amazing.”

'I hope they never retire'

Another Spaniard, world No.5 Paula Badosa, was so inspired by Nadal’s historic achievement in the face of so much adversity, that she vowed to her coach Jorge Garcia never to complain on court again.

“I was shocked. I'm still shocked. It's like unbelievable,” said the 24-year-old Badosa.

“Not even unbelievable that he won from two sets down, because only Rafa can do that. But against who he did it, you know? He's doing it against the world No.2.

“I have no words really. He's been an inspiration for me. He's my idol. Seeing him do this, look, I'm getting emotional,” she added, pointing to the goose bumps on her leg.

“It's amazing for our country and for the sports world. Not even for that, but, I mean, for life.

“After that I said to my coach, I'm not going to complain about anything, I'm not going to say I'm tired anymore.

“It's amazing. I hope they never retire. I know that's saying a crazy thing. But that would be perfect. Even Rafa, (Roger) Federer or Novak (Djokovic), they're amazing really.”

Paula Badosa / Roland-Garros 2021©Philippe Montigny / FFT

A 'mind-blowing' achievement

Iga Swiatek, the 2020 Roland-Garros champion, is a massive Nadal fan and she stuck around in Melbourne following her Australian Open semi-final exit to watch her idol take on Medvedev.

Nadal had actually texted Swiatek in the wake of her defeat to Danielle Collins in the last four, congratulating her on her run and encouraging the young Pole to continue working hard.

She said the text message meant so much to her that she wanted to get back to practice right away.

Swiatek endured a stressful five and a half hours as she watched the men’s final on Rod Laver Arena and walked away in awe of what Nadal was able to achieve.

“It was really inspiring because during the match I felt, like, different phases. At the beginning I thought it's going to be pretty hard for him (Rafa) playing that way to get the score around, to actually start winning with Daniil being so confident going forward,” explained Swiatek.

Iga Swiatek & Rafael Nadal at Roland-Garros©Amelie Laurin / FFT

“Rafa also did some little mistakes. But you could see even after his reactions that he's trying to fight through it. Basically during that match I thought if he's going to win that, it's going to be really mind-blowing and he's going to show why he's Rafa, why he won so many Grand Slams.”

Swiatek added: “That was just amazing. Only a few players can do that. Also it shows that even though the ‘Big Three’, they are older than other players that are coming up, physically they can win these five-set matches. Their physical preparation must be amazing.

“Daniil is 25, Rafa is 10 years older. At the end he was the one who was stronger in important moments. Physically also. That's amazing.”