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SPORT

Nadal comes from two sets down to make history with record 21st Slam

Rafael Nadal roared back from two sets down to win a titanic five-set duel with Daniil Medvedev and claim a record 21st Grand Slam men's title in the Australian Open final on Sunday.

rafa nadal wins australian open
The final went down to the bitter end with Nadal being broken as he served for the championship only for the Spaniard to break back.Photo: William WEST/AFP

The Spanish great looked dead and buried as the Russian world number two carved out a two-set lead but Nadal surged home for one of his mightiest comeback wins 2-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in 5hr 24min on Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal came out on top in the physical war of attrition to move ahead of era rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the all-time list of men’s major winners.

Djokovic missed his chance to improve on his nine Australian Open wins when he was deported over vaccination issues on the eve of the tournament, while Federer is injured.

It was one of the 35-year-old Spanish warrior’s greatest title victories in his 29th Grand Slam final winning his second Australian Open, 13 years after his first in 2009.

Nadal also became only the fourth man to win each of the four Grand Slams twice and the third oldest man in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam title, behind Ken Rosewall and Federer.

The final went down to the bitter end with Nadal being broken as he served for the championship only for the Spaniard to break back.

On his second attempt to serve it out, Nadal powered to three match points to win amid chaotic scenes in his player’s box and the frenzied crowd.

It is the fourth time in his storied career that Nadal had clawed back to win from two sets down and the second time Nadal had denied Medvedev in a Grand Slam final, winning a five-set epic at the 2019 US Open.

It crowned an extraordinary effort from Nadal at the year’s opening major, having to modify his game to compensate for a degenerative bone disease in his left foot that ended his 2021 season last August.

He then caught Covid in December which, he said, made him “very sick”.

Medvedev had wrecked Djokovic’s calendar Grand Slam push and bid for a 21st title in New York four months ago and was aiming to do the same to Nadal in Melbourne.

Medvedev lost his second consecutive Australian Open final after falling in straight sets to Djokovic in last year’s final.

Nadal now leads Medvedev 4-1, with the Russian also losing to the Spanish lefty in his first major final at the 2019 US Open over five sets.

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RUGBY

Spain miss out on Rugby World Cup after appeal rejected

Spain will not figure at next year's Rugby World Cup in France after their appeal against disqualification for fielding an ineligible player during qualifying was rejected, World Rugby announced on Monday.

Spain miss out on Rugby World Cup after appeal rejected

After examining new evidence brought by the Spanish federation, an independent appeal committee “dismissed the appeal”, World Rugby said in a statement.

“In accordance with World Rugby rules, the decision of the independent appeal committee is final and cannot be appealed again,” it added.

The ruling confirmed that Romania will take Spain’s place at next year’s tournament while Portugal — the team Spain beat to seal their place at France 2023 — have taken the spot vacated by Romania in the final qualification event taking place in November.

South African-born prop Gavin van den Berg, who has been playing in Spain since 2018, featured in two qualifiers against the Netherlands in 2020 and 2021 but was deemed not to have served the three years of residency needed to become eligible under World Rugby rules.

It is the second time that Spain have missed out on World Cup qualification on these grounds.

In 2018, along with Romania and Belgium, they were were sanctioned for fielding ineligible players, paving the way for Russia to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

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