Rafael Nadal rallied from two sets down to win a five-set battle with Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final on Sunday, claiming a record 21st Grand Slam men’s title.
The Spanish great appeared doomed as the Russian world number two built a two-set lead, but Nadal rallied for one of his greatest comeback victories, 2-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in 5hr 24min on Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal prevailed in the physical battle of attrition to surpass era rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the all-time list of men’s major winners.
Djokovic lost his chance to add to his nine Australian Open victories when he was deported on the eve of the tournament due to vaccination issues, while Federer is injured.
It was one of the 35-year-old Spaniard’s greatest title triumphs in his 29th Grand Slam final, as he won his second Australian Open 13 years after his first in 2009.
Nadal also became only the fourth man to win all four Grand Slams twice, and the third-oldest man in the Open Era to do so, trailing only Ken Rosewall and Roger Federer.
The final came down to the wire, with Nadal breaking as he served for the title, only for the Spaniard to break back.
Nadal powered to three match points on his second serve to win amid chaotic scenes in his player’s box and a frenzied crowd.
It is the fourth time in Nadal’s illustrious career that he has come back from two sets down to win, and the second time he has denied Medvedev in a Grand Slam final, having won a five-set epic at the 2019 US Open.
It capped an extraordinary performance by Nadal at the year’s first major, after he had to adapt his game to compensate for a degenerative bone disease in his left foot, which had ended his 2021 season last August.
He then contracted Covid in December, which he described as “very sick.”
Medvedev annihilated Djokovic’s calendar Grand Slam push and bid for a 21st title in New York four months ago, and he hoped to do the same to Nadal in Melbourne.
Medvedev was defeated in straight sets by Djokovic in the Australian Open final for the second time in a row.
Nadal now leads Medvedev 4-1, with the Russian losing in five sets to the Spanish lefty in his first major final at the 2019 US Open.