Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have paid tribute to Rafael Nadal after their rival captured a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
The Spaniard fought back from two sets down in Melbourne to defeat Russia’s Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 after an epic marathon lasting five hours and 24 minutes.
Nadal’s triumph was his first at Melbourne Park since 2009 and moved him one clear of Federer and Novak Djokovic in the all-time standings.
Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open after an epic five-hour battle against Daniil Medvedev
World No 1 Djokovic – who was prevented from competing after his visa row – hailed Nadal’s ‚fighting spirit‘ on social media and said his achievement was ‚amazing‘.
‚Congratulations to RN [Rafael Nadal] for his 21st GS [Grand Slam],‘ he wrote.
‚Amazing achievement. Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time.‘
Novak Djokovic, who was prevented from competing, warmly praised Nadal on social media
Federer, who won the last of his 20 Grand Slam titles in 2018 on the same court that witnessed Nadal’s heroics on Sunday, also praised his great rival.
‚What a match! To my friend and great rival Rafael Nadal, heartfelt congratulations on becoming the first man to win 21 Grand Slam singles titles,‘ he wrote on Instagram.
‚A few months ago we were joking about both being on crutches. Amazing. Never underestimate a great champion.‘
Federer spoke glowingly about his great rival on social media to congratulate him on his win
The Swiss won the last of his 20 Grand Slam titles in 2018, on the court Nadal has triumphed on
Federer hasn’t played since undergoing knee surgery last summer following his quarter-final exit at Wimbleton, while Nadal feared he may have to retire because of a foot injury last year.
The two have won a combined 41 Grand Slam titles out 74 since the Swiss won his first major at the US Open in 2003, with Djokovic also winning 20 over the same period.
By the time the Spaniard claimed his first Grand Slam tournament at the Roland Garros in 2005, Federer had already won four majors.
When Federer won the 2010 Australian Open, he led his rival 16-7 in the overall tally, yet Nadal has not only closed the gap but overtaken the 40-year-old, a feat which seemed nigh-on impossible a decade ago.
The Spaniard came back from two sets down to come through 2-6 6-7 6-4 6-4 7-5 in Melbourne
‚Your incredible work ethic, dedication and fighting spirit are an inspiration to me and countless others around the world,‘ Federer continued.
‚I am proud to share this era with you and honoured to play a role in pushing you to achieve more as you have done for me for the past 18 years. I’m sure you have more achievements ahead but for now enjoy this one!‘
Speaking after the trophy presentation, Nadal admitted a month he had considered retirement as he dealt with his latest injury setback.
‚For me it is just amazing,‘ he told the crowd at the Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal is now ahead of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the race for the most Grand Slams
The tennis legend admitted he had considered retiring just over a month ago due to injuries
‚Being honest one month and a half ago I did not know if I would be back on the tour playing tennis again.
‚Today I am here in front of you with this trophy. You don’t know how much it means to be back here. You are amazing and thank you so much for all of your love and support.
‚Without a doubt it is one of the most emotional [periods] of my career. To have the support I have received the last three weeks will stay in my heart. So many, many thanks.‘