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This year's first Grand Slam tennis tournament — the Australian Open — ended with historic wins for both the women's and men's singles champions. On January 29, 2022, 25-year-old Ashleigh Barty became the first Australian to clinch the women's singles title at a home grand slam in 44 years.
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal, who defeated Daniil Medvedev in a grueling 5 hour, 24-minute long match on January 30, 2021, made history as the only male tennis player to win 21 Grand Slam singles. Nadal was previously tied with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who each hold 20 Grand Slam titles.
Barty, who was born in Queensland, Australia, took her first tennis lesson at age 4. A natural at the sport, she was soon challenging teens and adults to games. Barty was only 14 when she began her professional tennis career in 2010. But that did not stop the gifted tennis player from racking up several victories, including the junior title at Wimbledon in 2011.
In 2014, Barty stunned the world by quitting tennis and switching to cricket. The naturally talented athlete was instantly scooped up by the Brisbane Heat Women's Cricket Team for its inaugural season in 2015-2016. A few months later, Barty was chosen to play for Queensland in the Australian National Women's Cricket League. She scored 100 runs in her debut match!
Barty returned to tennis in 2016 and rose to be in the top 20 rankings by 2017. Currently considered the most formidable force in women's tennis, Barty has been the top-ranked player on the women's tour since July 2019. She is only the second woman, after Serena Williams, to win three Grand Slam titles — the French Open, Wimbledon, and the Australian Open — on three different surfaces.
Though Barty seems to be enjoying tennis, do not be surprised if she decides to take another hiatus from the game— this time to play golf. The all-around athlete took up the sport in early 2020 after opting out of the US Open and the French Open due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In true Barty style, she clinched the Brookwater Golf Club Championship in September 2020.
Born in Mallorca, Spain, 35-year-old Nadal was first exposed to tennis at age four by his uncle Toni. The former player's coaching techniques were very unconventional. To improve Nadal's backhand, Toni forced the naturally right-handed player to practice with his left hand. Nadal's training primarily took place on inferior courts with bad tennis balls to demonstrate that tennis was not won by having the best equipment or the perfect court. It was won by having a winning attitude, discipline, and focus.
Nadal won his first major title — the French Open — in 2005, just two days after turning 19, and he has not stopped since. The amazing tennis player has won the French Open 13 times (a record for any Grand Slam tournament), the US Open four times and Wimbledon and the Australian Open twice each. He even garnered an Olympic gold at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China.
The 35-year-old's historic win at the Australian Open was even more remarkable given that he recently underwent surgery for a foot problem. Though currently ranked No. 5 in the world, Nadal has repeatedly proved he is the greatest tennis player of all time!
Resources: CNN.com, Wikipedia.org,heraldsun.com.au, the guardian.com, Usopen.com