Rafael Nadal wins record 21st Grand Slam after stunning comeback in Australian Open final

Spaniard fights back after losing first two sets to Medvedev in Melbourne on Sunday

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Rafael Nadal staged one of the great tennis comebacks as he recovered from two sets down to defeat Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final for a record 21st Grand Slam title.

The Spaniard has now moved past his 'Big Three' rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the majors title race.

Nadal looked down and out after losing the opening two sets. He had not recovered from two sets down to win a match since beating Mikhail Youzhny at Wimbledon in 2007, and had faded physically after the first two sets against Denis Shapovalov and Matteo Berrettini in Melbourne.

But his fighting spirit kicked in as he recovered from 0-40 at 2-3 in third set. With Medvedev beginning to look weary and muddled in his shot selection, Nadal pounced at 4-4 before serving out the set 6-4. From there on, it was Nadal all the way as he completed a stunning 2-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 victory.

After the win, Nadal said it was one of the most emotional moments of his career. The 35-year-old had played down his chances in the lead-up and during the past two weeks following a career-threatening foot problem and contracting Covid-19. Yet he produced some incredible tennis, picking up an ATP 250 title in Melbourne before the year's first Grand Slam, and reach a 29th major final — and his sixth in Australia

"It was one of the most emotional matches in my tennis career," Nadal said. "I don't know what to say. For me, it's just amazing.

"Being honest, one month and a half ago, I did not know if I will be able to be back on the tour and play tennis again. And today, in front of all of you [the crowd], having this trophy with me... you really don't know how much I fought to be here.

"Having the huge support that I received during the three weeks is going to stay in my heart forever."

It was Nadal's second title triumph at Melbourne Park after he won in 2009.

"Maybe there is a chance I say that was my last Australian Open, but no, I have plenty of energy to keep going," Nadal added.

"I can't explain the feelings I have right now but I am going to keep trying my best and keep coming here.

At five hours and 24 minutes, it was the second longest Australian Open final after Novak Djokovic beat Nadal in five sets in five hours and 53 minutes in 2012.

In a match steeped in drama, Nadal was two points from the title but was broken as he served for the match at 5-4.

He held firm to break Medvedev again and served out the match to love, rushing in to deliver a backhand volley.

Dropping his racket, Nadal shook his head and grinned, then kicked a tennis ball away and pumped his fists in delight.

Thrashed by Djokovic in last year's final, US Open champion Medvedev has now lost three out of the four Grand Slam deciders he has contested.

"Tough to talk after five hours and 30 minutes and losing," said Medvedev .

"What you [Rafa] did today was amazing. After the match, I just asked him: 'Are you tired?'

"It was insane ... I thought you are going to get tired, maybe just a little, but you won the match. You're an amazing champion and I think you guys [Federer, Djokovic and Nadal] have a good rivalry still. It's not over yet."

Now more than ever, world No1 Djokovic may rue his failed bid to defend his title in Melbourne over his vaccination status. His deportation threw the tournament wide open, leaving a vacuum for Nadal to fill and strike a potentially decisive blow in the Grand Slam race.

The final was also briefly interrupted by a protestor who jumped out of the crowd and onto the court during the ninth game of the second set holding a banner highlighting refugee detention - a campaign that received a global attention when Djokovic was detained and then deported ahead of the tournament.

Security guards quickly tackled the intruder before hauling the person away.

Updated: January 30, 2022, 8:21 PM