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 The statistics that defined 2022 – Nadal’s career-best 20-match winning streak

He finished 2021 under an injury cloud, but Rafael Nadal strutted his stuff as 2022 commenced, reeling off a winning streak for the ages.

Rafael Nadal, Acapulco 2020 Rafael Nadal, Acapulco 2020

We’ve counted him out many times before. Rafael Nadal, now sitting atop the all-time men’s singles Grand Slam titles list with 22, was not supposed to be a tour de force beyond the age of 35 (or even 30, depending on who you asked).

The Spaniard, one of the most relentlessly physical powerhouses that the sport has ever seen, had a game style that was too demanding. The general consensus for years was that his body would prove to be too vulnerable to withstand the extreme pressures placed upon it as he hit his mid-thirties. 

That theory was proven untrue yet again in 2022, as Nadal put together another season for the ages, winning two major titles and proving to the world that – even for him – age is just a number. 

Rafael Nadal trophy ceremony AO 2022
Men final of the Australian open between Rafael Nadal (Esp) and Daniil Medvedev || 219552_0071

A brilliant beginning 

Nadal’s 2021 was cut short by a foot injury, his last match coming in August, long before the US Open, at Washington, D.C. The King of Clay then suffered from Covid in December, making a supreme start to the 2022 season all the more unlikely.

Nadal entered 2022 with question marks lingering, but by March the Spaniard had demonstrated that he was still very much in command of his legendary game and body. It all started innocently enough – a 6-2, 7-5 win over Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in his first match of the season. 

Nadal didn’t exactly express confidence after the win – it was more like relief. 

“More than victory or losing, I have been back on a professional tour playing a professional match after five, six months. That makes me feel good, happy, and of course the victory is important because that gives me the chance to play again tomorrow,” he said. 

A few days later Nadal raised the trophy in Melbourne at the 250 event, defeating Maxime Cressy in the final. Something was building… but we weren’t quite sure what.

©Sydney Low/CSM/Shutterstock

His 21st major title, and second in Australia

Riding a three-match winning streak into the Australian Open, Nadal had renewed confidence in his game and fitness. He would plow through the draw in Melbourne (with Novak Djokovic conspicuously absent), notching wins over Karen Khachanov (in four sets), Denis Shapovalov (in five), Matteo Berrettini (in four) and – remarkably – Daniil Medvedev from two sets down to win the final. 

By coming back from the brink against Medvedev, Nadal became the first player to win an Australian Open final from two sets down since Roy Emerson in 1965. The Mallorcan, who had lost his last four finals at the Aussie Open, had his 21st major title, and his second in Australia. 

“I was repeating to myself during the whole match, I lost a lot of times here having chances, sometimes I was a little bit unlucky,” Nadal said after the final. “I just wanted to keep believing till the end, no?”

Stretching the streak to 20 

Nadal would stay red-hot into Acapulco, where he again defeated Medvedev, in the semi-final, before topping Cameron Norrie for the title, without dropping a set to take his streak to 15.

Weeks later, at Indian Wells, Nadal would reel off five more victories, including dramatic triumphs over Sebastian Korda, Nick Kyrgios and Carlos Alcaraz, to take his streak to 20. By doing so Nadal stretched a winning streak to 20 for the seventh time in his career (his career-best winning streak was 32, achieved in 2008), and reached a 20-0 record to start a season for the first time in his career and just the third time in ATP Open Era history. 

Only Novak Djokovic, who started 2011 41-0 and 2020 26-0, has done better. 

Playing with a cracked rib in the final, Nadal succumbed to Taylor Fritz, ending his best ever start to the season. Despite the loss, Nadal’s ability to overcome the injury woes that ended his 2021 season, as he produced the most spectacular start to a season in his legendary career, reminded us all of what we already knew: never count Nadal out. 

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