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Rafael Nadal thought his tennis career was over before surging to a record-breaking Australian Open victory

Rafael Nadal has once again summited tennis’ tallest mountain, clinching a record-breaking victory in the 2022 Australian Open. The 35-year-old crawled back from a two-set deficit Sunday to take down Russian superstar Daniil Medvedev in a five-plus hour marathon match. The 2-6, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 victory — which Nadal called “one of the most emotional ones in my tennis career” — gave the Spanish superstar his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title.

The 35-year-old crawled back from a two-set deficit Sunday to take down Russian superstar Daniil Medvedev in a five-plus hour marathon match. The 2-6, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 victory — which Nadal called “one of the most emotional ones in my tennis career” — gave the Spanish superstar his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title.ADVERTISEMENT But just a month and a half before winning, the tennis great wasn’t even sure he’d be able to compete in the pros ever again.The clay-court specialist cut his 2021 season short after a lingering left foot injury became too painful to bear. Months later, Nadal revealed that he had been struggling with the issue — which he attributed to a rare, untreatable ailment called Muller-Weiss Syndrome — for nearly two decades.

But this time around, the flare up was so severe that he needed specialized treatment and was put on crutches. He doubted he’d ever return to peak form on the tennis court, rendering Sunday’s Australian Open victory all the more remarkable.“You really don’t know how much I [fought] to be here,” Nadal said to the crowd at Rod Laver Arena. “I can’t thank enough all the support I received since I arrived here. You are just amazing. Thank you so much for all the love and support.”Nadal told the crowd that just a few months ago, he thought there may be a possibility that this year would be his last Australian Open.

But now, that’s plenty of energy to keep going,” he said on Sunday.

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