Rafael Nadal described his Australian Open triumph as his greatest comeback after he recovered from two sets down against Daniil Medvedev to win a record-breaking 21st grand slam title.
Nadal defeated Medvedev, the second seed, 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in five hours and 24 minutes, the second longest grand slam final. It is the first time in Nadal’s career he has come back from two sets down in a slam final and the Spaniard has now won at least two singles titles at all four grand slam tournaments.
“If we put everything together, the scenario, the momentum, what it means. Yeah, without a doubt probably have been the biggest comeback of my tennis career,” said Nadal.
The 35-year-old was not certain to compete in Australia. He had not played for most of the previous six months due to a chronic foot injury that required surgery. Then his preparation was disrupted by Covid.
Asked if this was his greatest victory, Nadal nodded. “The most unexpected, without a doubt,” he said, smiling. “And most surprising I think for everyone. For you guys, too. For me personally, especially, no? Because I know how I arrived here. I don’t know. Have been a very emotional night. Even now I am destroyed, honestly, physically. I can’t think much, I can’t remember a lot of moments of the match.”
Nadal’s unexpected victory means he is now the sole owner of the men’s grand slam record but he has consistently played down the importance of the achievement. “I feel lucky to achieve one more very special thing in my tennis career,” he said. “I don’t care much if I am the one or not the one or the best of the history, not the best of the history. Honestly today I don’t care much. For me it’s about enjoying nights like today. That means everything for me – [it] means even more to achieve the second Australian Open more than any other thing.”
Nadal received congratulations from Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on social media. “What a match! To my friend and great rival@RafaelNadal, heartfelt congratulations on becoming the first man to win 21 grand slam singles titles,” wrote Federer. “A few months ago we were joking about both being on crutches. Amazing. Never underestimate a great champion. Your incredible work ethic, dedication and fighting spirit are an inspirational to me and countless others around the world.”
Nadal explained that the hardest part about the past few months was having no timeline for a possible return: “Personally, my feeling is much easier to accept because every week you do a different thing and you see the improvements and you know that after this period of time the normal thing is you going to be fine. My position is completely different.
“We were trying things. And for a long period of time without any success, with zero success. After all the things that I went through all my career, of course at my age the doubts are there. Knowing that you have an injury that you can’t recover from … of course the doubts are there. Mentally it is much tougher.”