A concerning behind-the scenes photo has revealed Spanish tennis legend Rafael Nadal‘s chance at securing a historic 21 grand slam title win in tonight’s Australia Open final could be in jeopardy. 

Nadal is set to go up against Russian world No.2 Daniil Medvedev in a blockbuster singles match in Melbourne‘s Rod Laver Arena at 7.30pm (AEST) on Sunday.

But the Spaniard has been spotted undergoing a finger strapping operation on his left hand just hours before the game is scheduled to kick off. 

A photo has emerged showing the world No.5 sitting down holding out his hand as a member of his team wrapped his index finger with a bandage. 

A concerning behind-the-scenes photo has emerged of Rafael Nadal undergoing a finger strapping operation (pictured) just hours before he is set to hit Rod Laver Arena

A concerning behind-the-scenes photo has emerged of Rafael Nadal undergoing a finger strapping operation (pictured) just hours before he is set to hit Rod Laver Arena

A concerning behind-the-scenes photo has emerged of Rafael Nadal undergoing a finger strapping operation (pictured) just hours before he is set to hit Rod Laver Arena

However, former Australian tennis coach Jelena Dokic said the procedure may not exactly spell disaster for Nadal.

‘It is (routine). He always gets his hands and his fingers taped to prevent blisters,’ she said on Channel 9.

‘We have seen it in the past as well. He gets blisters and I think he sweats quite a bit as well and gets very physical in his matches. So it affects him.’

Barely a month after fearing he may not be healthy enough to compete at Melbourne Park, Nadal is one win away from landing an unprecedented 21st men’s grand slam singles crown.

Taking on Medvedev on Sunday, Nadal is bidding for the record number of majors that most thought Djokovic would be eyeing off before his dramatic deportation from Australia on the eve of the season’s first slam.

After two desperate court battles and a fortnight-long saga that drew worldwide attention, Djokovic’s departure for not having the necessary visa to enter the country opened the door for Nadal.

After playing just two matches between June and January because of a crippling foot injury aggravated during his devastating French Open finals loss last year to Djokovic, not even the Spaniard dreamed of being in this position.

‘We can create histories but the real truth is that two months ago we didn’t know if we will be able to be back on tour at all,’ Nadal said after his epic five-set quarter-final victory over Denis Shapovalov on Wednesday.

Nadal (pictured) takes on Russian world No.2 Daniil Medvedev on Sunday night bidding for a record 21 grand slam win

Nadal (pictured) takes on Russian world No.2 Daniil Medvedev on Sunday night bidding for a record 21 grand slam win

Nadal (pictured) takes on Russian world No.2 Daniil Medvedev on Sunday night bidding for a record 21 grand slam win 

Little wonder then, though not surprising, that as he prepares for Medvedev, having initially been slated for a potential semi-final with Djokovic, that Nadal isn’t nearly as obsessed with moving one clear of the Serb and fellow tennis titan Roger Federer with a 21st grand slam.

Publicly at least, the 35-year-old former world No.1 said he’s merely still playing for the joy of competing in such an extraordinary golden era.

Nadal insisted it’s an honour to feature in world sport’s most dominate triumvirate come what may.

‘I just feel happy to be part of this amazing era of tennis, sharing all these things with another two players,’ he said.

‘That’s it. In some ways it doesn’t matter if somebody achieve one more or one less (grand slam), no?

‘Everyone, we did amazing things and things that will be very difficult to equal.’

More important to Nadal, he said, is winning a second Australian Open crown, after losing four finals since his only triumph in 2009.

That in itself would elevate Nadal in the history books alongside Djokovic, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only man to win all four grand slam events at least twice.

‘Of course, if just a few people did this during the whole history of this sport it’s because it’s something very difficult to make it,’ said Nadal, who also had to overcome a bout of COVID-19 close to Christmas to make it to Melbourne.

‘Yeah, I’m happy that I going to have a chance. But for me, at the end, it’s about, more than all these statistics.

Medvedev (pictured) is striving to become the first man to capture his second career major in successive slams

Medvedev (pictured) is striving to become the first man to capture his second career major in successive slams

Medvedev (pictured) is striving to become the first man to capture his second career major in successive slams 

‘It’s about be in the final of the Australian Open one more time. That means a lot to me.’

History is at stake for Medvedev, too.

After denying Djokovic a fabled calendar-year grand slam with victory over the world No.1 in last year’s US Open final, Medvedev is striving to become the first man to capture his second career major in successive slams.

Nadal, typically, has full respect for the Russian, knowing the 25-year-old is a vastly different proposition to the opponent he beat in five gruelling sets in the 2019 final at Flushing Meadows.

‘If I’m not able to play at my top level, I will be simply no chance,’ Nadal said.

‘One thing won’t change, I need to play at my highest level.’

Source: Daily Mail

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