Rafael Nadal has broken a 13-year Australian title drought with victory over bold American qualifier Maxime Cressy in the final of the Melbourne Park Summer Set.
Nadal overcame a surprisingly stern test from the serve-volleying American, needing to save a set point in the opening tiebreak before prevailing 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 at Melbourne Park on Sunday night.
Fittingly, the 89th title of the Spaniard’s mighty career came on Rod Laver Arena, the scene of Nadal’s greatest-ever triumph on Australian soil more than a decade ago.
Nadal hadn’t nabbed a title Down Under since conquering Roger Federer on the same court in an epic Australian Open final way back in 2009.
19 CONSECUTIVE SEASONS with an ATP title for @RafaelNadal! 😮
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) January 9, 2022
The 20-time grand slam champion has since lost four more title deciders in Melbourne – in 2012 and 2019 to Novak Djokovic, 2017 to Federer and 2014 to Stan Wawrinka.
But the former world No.1 was made to fight to extend his amazing record of having won at least one ATP title for a remarkable 19 consecutive years.
The 112th-ranked Cressy had taken out second seed Reilly Opelka and former world No.3 Grigor Dimitrov with his old-school style to reach the final.
He persisted with his daring tactics against Nadal, rushing the net behind first and second serves throughout the match come what may.
Cressy had the opening set on his racquet but couldn’t land a first delivery on either point when serving at 6-5 in the tiebreak.
Typically, the ruthless Nadal made him pay, snatching the breaker to take a one-set lead.
Undeterred, the Paris-born Cressy broke Nadal in the first game of the second set.
But there was no denying the Spaniard, who broke back twice to secure victory and a perfect start to 2022 after injuries and a heavy bout of COVID-19 last month threatened to derail his shot at a record 21st grand slam title this month.