Rafael Nadal crashed out of the Australian Open 2020 after his quarter final defeat to Austria’s Dominic Thiem This means that the Spaniard’s decade long quest for the 2nd Australian Open trophy still remains elusive. As Rafa enters the later stages of his career, he knows that his chances of tasting the second success at Melbourne Park are running out, thick and fast.
Since his 1st success at Melbourne Park back in 2009, the Spaniard has been in the Australian Open finals 4 times. Nadal has also managed to reach the quarter-finals on 4 other occasions. However, the dream of raising the trophy and thus becoming the 1st player in Open Era to win a doubled Grand Slam still remains evasive. In this article we look back at the 4 times Rafa was so near to the Norman Brookes trophy, yet ended up being so far.
The 2012 Final Loss To Djokovic
In 2011, Nadal’s bid to win the Australian Open and thus hold all 4 slams at the same time was ended when he lost to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the quarter-finals. Rafa however again raced to the finals in 2012 Australian Open. This time he was up against the top seed and then World Number 1 Novak Djokovic.
Nadal had already lost 2 Grand Slam finals to Djokovic in 2011 and was determined to reverse the tide this time. The Spaniard with his dogged determination took the 1st set by breaking Djokovic at the tail end of the set. The Serb would then come back very strongly winning the next 2 sets with relative ease.
In the 4th set, Djokovic was leading by a break and appeared to be cruising towards the title. Nadal however was not giving an inch. He got the break back, took the set to a tie breaker and finally levelled the match by winning the tie breaker. The momentum was now with the great Spaniard as he broke Djokovic in the early stages of 5th set. The World Number 1 however got the break back very soon and then broke the Nadal serve at 6-5 score. As the clock crossed 5 hours and 50 minutes, Djokovic served for the title and Nadal’s chase for the 2nd Australian Open final remained incomplete for now.
The 2014 Final Loss To Wawrinka
Nadal had to pull out of the Australian Open 2013 due to injury issues. He did return to Melbourne Park in 2014 as the top seed and World Number 1. Rafa raced to the final by defeating archrival Roger Federer in the semis in 3 straight sets. Nadal was now facing Stan Wawrinka. This Swiss had looked in dominant form throughout the Open as he had defeated Novak Djokovic in an epic quarter-final.
However, few gave Wawrinka any chances of pulling an upset as Nadal was also looking sharp on the court. Also, the fact the Wawrinka had never won a set leave alone a match against Nadal in their 12 meetings till then made the Spaniard an odds on favorite. However, Nadal’s fate came in the way of his title. His back began to turn stiff a day before the match and he was not fully fit on the court.
During the match it was very much visible that Rafa was struggling with his movement. Stan who was looking in total dominance took the 1st and 2nd set with ease. Nadal got out for a medical timeout and then returned to take the 3rd set. The crowd sensed that a comeback was on and began cheering the World Number 1. However, that hope of a comeback was quickly put to rest and Stan Wawrinka took the 4th set and sealed the championship. Nadal appeared to be shaken and failed to hide his emotions in the prize giving ceremony.
The 2017 Final Loss To Federer
After a disappointing show in the year 2016, Rafa Nadal was back in the 2017 Australian Open as the 9th seed. He battled past rising stars Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov in titanic 5 set clashes to set a final date with his long time and most important rival Roger Federer of Switzerland. Rafa had never lost to Roger in a Grand Slam match since 2007 Wimbledon final. His record against the Swiss maestro at Melbourne was also perfect with 3 wins and no losses.
In the 1st set Federer took the lead and won it. Nadal would come back in the 2nd set to win it convincingly. Both players shared the 3rd and 4th set and thus the match would fittingly go to a deciding 5th set. Nadal broke the Federer serve in the very 1st game of the last set. He then appeared marching towards victory at 3-1 lead. However, Federer just found another gear for next half an hour or so. He broke back and then didn’t allow Rafa Nadal to win a single game.
Federer had played what he later termed as probably the best set of his career. For Rafael Nadal it was yet again a déjà vu at Melbourne Park. His search towards a 2nd Australian Open title remained eternal and elusive.
The 2019 Final Loss Against Djokovic
Rafael Nadal had failed to compete in any of the tournaments after retiring midway in 2018 US Open semis, due to knee injury. The Spaniard who was written off by many experts as a possible favorite at 2019 Australian Open raised a lot of eyebrows by reaching the final without the loss of a single set. The 2009 champion appeared in dominant form and was serving effectively as well as shortening rallies as he cruised through all the opponents.
In the last match, Rafa would face his most formidable opponent and nemesis in Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. The match was expected to be somewhat like the 2012 final but turned as a bit of anticlimax. Nadal who had not lost a set in the whole tournament would not win even one set in the final. Djokovic took less than two hours to seal the deal and once again Rafa Nadal’s bid for the second title at the Australian Open remained unanswered.
In addition to these failures in the finals, Rafa had some other tough moments in Melbourne like the injury forced pullout in the 2018 quarter-finals against Marin Cilic and the 2020 quarter-final loss to a resurgent Dominic Thiem. The Spaniard who is as much known for his grit as his game has promised to return back in 2021 with more hunger and vigour. We wish this great tennis player more success once he lands in Australia to begin his 2021 season.