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Australian Open: Rafael Nadal defeats Daniil Medvedev in five-set epic to win record 21st Grand Slam title

Rafael Nadal recovers from two sets down to win a match for first time since beating Mikhail Youzhny at Wimbledon in 2007 and he is the first to do so in an Australian Open final since Roy Emerson in 1965; he moves one ahead of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the Grand Slam stakes

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Rafael Nadal rallied from two sets down to win his second Australian Open title and record 21st Grand Slam

Rafael Nadal rewrote the history books on Sunday after defeating Daniil Medvedev in a marathon Australian Open final to become the first man to win 21 Grand Slam titles.

The Spaniard battled back to win from two sets down for the first time at a Grand Slam in 15 years to complete a remarkable chapter in his extraordinary career, moving him one clear of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the Slam stakes.

His incredible 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3 7-5 victory after five hours and 24 minutes finally finished at 1.11am local time and was his second triumph at Melbourne Park - his first since 2009 - making him only the second man after Djokovic to win every Grand Slam title at least twice since the sport turned professional in 1968.

The numbers only tell a fraction of the story after the 35-year-old feared he may have to retire only a couple of months ago because of a chronic foot problem and arrived in Australia unsure of what he could achieve.

After receiving the trophy, Nadal turned to his opponent, saying: "I know it's a tough moment. Daniil, you are an amazing champion.

"I have been in this position a couple of times at this tournament. I have no doubt you will have this trophy a couple of times in your career. It has been one of the most emotional matches in my tennis career and to share the court with you is just an honour.

"I don't know what to say. For me, it's just amazing. Being honest, one month and a half ago I didn't know if I would be able to be back on the tour and now I am here sharing the trophy with all of you. You don't know how much I fought to be here. Thank you so much for all the support.

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"Without a doubt, it's one of the most emotional moments in my tennis career. The support I received through the three weeks is going to stay in my heart for the rest of my life.

"I really can't explain the feelings that I have right now but I'm going to keep trying my best to come next year."

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after losing a point against Daniil Medvedev of Russia during the men...s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Hamilton)
Image: Nadal felt the pain of dealing with Daniil Medvedev's incredible all-court game early on

Nadal, playing in his 29th Grand Slam final, was put under intense early pressure by the big-serving Medvedev, who was competing in his fourth major final.

On each of those four occasions, the Russian has faced either Djokovic or Nadal, who beat the 25-year-old in a thrilling US Open final in 2019.

A more mature Medvedev came out on top of a 26-shot rally, but Nadal showed phenomenal reflexes to stay ahead following an absorbing third game.

The Spaniard was unable to stop Medvedev on his next service game, however, as the Russian finally broke Nadal's resistance.

He reeled off a total of five games in a row to claim the opener, leaving Nadal with the headache of solving the Medvedev puzzle.

Nadal, who posted a photograph of himself on crutches after a medical procedure almost five months ago, had the capacity crowd on Rod Laver Arena on their feet when he produced an acute sliced backhand winner after an epic 40-shot rally en route to breaking through for a 3-1 lead in a topsy-turvy second set.

The momentum appeared to be with Nadal, who was playing in a sixth Australian Open final and first here since 2019, but his first serve percentage was short of 50 per cent - simply not good enough to keep Medvedev at bay as he hit back immediately.

Security guards stand close to Daniil Medvedev of Russia after a protester interrupted play by jumping onto the court  during the men...s singles final against Rafael Nadal of Spain at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Image: Security guards stand close to Medvedev after a protester interrupted play by jumping onto the court

There were dramatic scenes with Nadal facing break point serving for the second set at 5-3 when a man waving a banner jumped out of the crowd and down onto the court.

He was only metres from Medvedev but was immediately tackled by several security men and hauled away.

When the match resumed, Medvedev's never-say-die approach paid dividends. He saved a set point before breaking back and sending the contest into an inevitable tiebreak situation.

Again Nadal led 5-3, but this time Medvedev claimed the next four points in a row to win a brutal set lasting one hour and 24 minutes. After ending it with a smart backhand pass, the Russian taunted the crowd, who responded with boos.

It was the second year in a row Medvedev has made the final at Melbourne Park, having lost to Djokovic 12 months ago, but this time he was in prime position to get his hands on the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after winning a point against Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the men...s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)
Image: A drenched Nadal pulled a set back under the lights of Rod Laver Arena

In typical Nadal fashion, he wasn't giving up. The Spaniard had not recovered from two sets down to win a match since beating Mikhail Youzhny at Wimbledon in 2007, while he faded physically after the first two sets against Denis Shapovalov and Matteo Berrettini here.

After battling back from 0-40 at 2-3 in the third set, he pounced at 4-4 with a scorching backhand down the line before serving out the third set to keep his hopes of a comeback alive.

The pendulum appeared to swing the way of the sixth seed early in the fourth set when a double fault from Medvedev was greeted by loud cheers from Nadal's supporters in the crowd, but the world No 2 probed his way back for 2-2.

A third successive break of serve followed, with Nadal luring Medvedev in before passing him with ease on his seventh break point opportunity.

Daniil Medvedev of Russia, right, has a trainer treat his leg during break while playing Rafael Nadal of Spain during the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022
Image: Medvedev had the trainer treat his leg as the physicality of the final began to affect his game

This time, Nadal consolidated his lead for a 4-2 advantage with the physicality of the match appearing to take its toll on the Russian, who was allowing himself to become increasingly wound up by the crowd, appealing repeatedly to umpire John Blom to control them.

Nadal created a set point on his opponent's serve at 5-3, which Medvedev saved, but the Spaniard took it 6-4 on his own serve to level up an incredible final.

Medvedev, who was looking to become the first man in the professional era to win his first two Grand Slam titles in succession, appeared to be hanging on.

And after four hours and 40 minutes of action, Nadal broke his resistance to hit the front at 3-2 in the deciding set before he came out to serve for a place in history at 5-4.

In another dramatic twist, Medvedev broke a nervous Nadal for 5-5, but in incredible scenes, the Spaniard bounced back to get another chance to serve for the title.

This time, the 35-year-old delivered just when it mattered most to complete his most improbable triumph in the second-longest match in the tournament's history, behind only the epic tussle between Djokovic and Nadal in 2012.

He dropped his racket to the court in disbelief before pumping his fists in delight and celebrating with his support team.

Nadal will now be favourite again to claim his 14th French Open title and extend his Grand Slam streak to No 22 later this year.

Medvedev finally earned sustained applause from the crowd for a composed speech.

He said: "It's tough to talk after five hours 30 and losing but I want to congratulate Rafa. What he did today, I was amazed. During the match, I tried to just play tennis but, after the match, I asked him, 'Are you tired?'

"It was insane. You're an amazing champion."

Addressing his agent and coach, he said: "We tried our best and hopefully we can have more victories to come. Usually, I have my wife here but I think probably the TV is broken."

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