WILL EVANS’ daily preview serves up Australian Open tips for the 2022 men’s final as Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev chase their place in history. 

History: Played 4: Nadal 3 V Medvedev 1

First meeting: ATP Finals, 2020 (SF): Medvedev d Nadal 3-6 7-6 6-3

Final Thoughts: History will be made at Melbourne Park on Sunday night. Rafael Nadal is chasing a record 21st Grand Slam title – and his first Australian Open title since 2009. Daniil Medvedev is looking to become just the second men’s player of the Open era to follow up their maiden Grand Slam win by winning the subsequent major; he would also be the first player outside the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic triumvirate to win back-to-back Slams in more than 20 years.

Nadal leads the head-to-head count against Medvedev 3-1. He prevailed in the Canadian Masters final, an epic five-set US Open final and an ATP Finals round-robin match – all in 2019. Medvedev took out their most recent clash, however, a tough three-setter in the 2020 ATP Finals semis.

Sixth seed Nadal has been inspirational over the past fortnight. The first week of the tournament consisted of straight-sets wins over Marcos Giron, Yannick Hanfmann and Adrian Mannarino, and a high-quality four-set defeat of 28th seed Karen Khachanov.

The 35-year-old then overcame a bout of heatstroke to outlast 14th seed Denis Shapovalov in five sets in the quarter-finals. It was vintage Nadal in the semis as he dismantled in-form seventh seed Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3.

Now he’s one win away from completing an extraordinary comeback from an injury-hampered 2021 campaign. Nadal boasts a magnificent 20-8 record in Grand Slam finals. But the last four of those losses were in Australian Open deciders; his 2009 triumph in Melbourne was his sole success in the tournament.

The tournament favourite from the outset following Novak Djokovic’s deportation, second seed Medvedev has been tested over the past 10 days. Nick Kyrgios (second round) and Maxime Cressy (fourth round) took a set off him.

But the reigning US Open champ had to dig deep into his reserves of energy, resilience, poise and brilliance to overcome ninth seed Felix Auger Alliasime in the quarters. Double-faults and unforced errors plagued Medvedev as he found himself two sets down. But after coolly closing out a third-set tiebreak, the 25-year-old grinded out a 6-7 3-6 7-6 7-5 6-4 victory in one of the finest Australian Open matches in recent memory – perhaps of all time.

The 25-year-old recovered in time to defeat a fresher Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 4-6 6-4 6-1 in a semi-final masterclass. Medvedev lost his cool at times but his championship qualities came to the fore at crucial junctures.

Medvedev has been backed into $1.52 to overcome the Spanish legend. Nadal will have the backing of the Melbourne crowd – but Medvedev has not been fazed by his villain role throughout the tournament.

This shapes as a classic to rival their 2019 US Open final. But Medvedev has improved considerably in the couple of years since – and the experience of his triumph over Djokovic at Flushing Meadows in September will prove crucial in emerging victorious in a lengthy thriller.

Tip: Set Betting – Medvedev 3-2 @ $5.50