A historic comeback for a record win.
Rafael Nadal fought his way back from an 0-2 score to defeat favorite Daniil Medvedev 2-6 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4 7-5 in a marathon match that took 5 hours and 24 minutes to win his second Australian Open title — and his 21st Grand Slam singles title.
The 35-year-old took the podium after he rallied back to overcome the reigning US Open Champion Medvedev and raised the trophy above his head.
“I dont even know what to say, guys,” the Spaniard told the crowd with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup next to him. “It’s just amazing. One month ago I didn’t know if I’d be back playing on the tour… you don’t even know how much I fought to be here.”
He called the victory “probably one of the most emotional [wins] in my tennis career.”
Nadal’s injury-marred 2021 season ended early with retirement rumors swirling in recent months. Now, he stands alone atop the men’s tennis leaderboard, ahead of both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who have won 20 Grand Slams apiece.
Neither will get off easy, as Nadal had a promise for an energized crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
“I’m going to keep playing my best to keep coming next year,” he told the .
Medvedev, the top seed in the tournament after Djokovic was deported over COVID-19 vaccination requirements, raced out to an early lead, but succumbed to the tennis legend.
The second-seeded Medvedev joked at the podium and said he asked Nadal after the loss if he was tired. The 25-year-old seemed awed by Nadal’s longevity.
“After the match I asked Rafa, ‘Are you tired?’” he said.
Nadal returned the favor to the young Russian.
“I don’t have any doubt you’ll have this trophy a few times in your career because you are amazing,” Nadal said of Medvedev. “This has been one of the most emotional matches of my career and it has been an honor to share the court with you.”