Rafael Nadal won a record 21st Grand Slam men’s title in the most stunning fashion, fighting back from two sets down to beat Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in a classic Australian Open final.
Backed by a loud Melbourne crowd, sixth seed Nadal rallied to win 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 on Rod Laver Arena.
US Open champion Medvedev was going for his second successive major title.
Medvedev, 25, was in command before Nadal showed all of his renowned grit and fight to earn an extraordinary win.
The 35-year-old Spaniard has been at the centre of some of the sport’s most incredible triumphs – but this surely goes down as the most amazing Grand Slam victory of his illustrious career.
In the absence of the deported Novak Djokovic and the injured Roger Federer in Melbourne, Nadal has moved one ahead of his great rivals in the race to finish with most major men’s singles titles.
Nadal’s achievement comes only a few months after he thought he would never be able to return to the tour because of a foot injury.
“Without a doubt it is one of the most emotional wins of my career,” he said after the trophy presentation.
The issue restricted him to only one tournament in the final seven months of 2021, while a bout of coronavirus in mid-December also left him “very sick with fever”.
Those setbacks meant the Australian Open was just Nadal’s second competitive event in five months, having won a warm-up tournament at Melbourne Park earlier in January.
Nadal sealed victory after five hours 24 minutes – and at 01:11 local time in Melbourne – when Medvedev could not return a net volley on the first of the Spaniard’s three match points.
Dropping his racquet to the floor, Nadal stood motionless with his hands on his hips and his jaw dropped. After a warm embrace with Medvedev, he walked towards his support team and exploded with emotion.
A triple first pump was followed by a drop to his knees, his hands covering his face as he looked up to the sky.
The intensity of his celebration illustrated the euphoria Nadal felt after the obstacles he had overcome – on the night and in the recent months – to win.
Previously in his career, Nadal had only won three matches from two sets down and the last of those came at Wimbledon in 2007 against Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny.
Victory came at the end of the second longest Grand Slam final in history, just 30 minutes short of the 2012 final at Melbourne Park when Nadal lost to Djokovic.
Afterwards, Medvedev thanked his team, and joked: “I’m sure my wife is watching back home but I think the TV will be broken now.”