Rafa Nadal has moved closer to becoming the greatest male tennis player of all time by clinching his 21st Grand Slam title in the Australian Open.
Despite only just returning from six months out with injury, Nadal managed to defeat World Number 2 Daniil Medvedev in a five-set thriller that left fans on the edge of their seats.
Medvedev gained a two set advantage before going on to concede the following three sets to Nadal in an Open final that’s certain to be remembered as one of the classics.
With the absence of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, all eyes were on Rafa Nadal as the Open tournament began. However, with Nadal on crutches just four months ago and doubtful even to play, there were questions about his fitness.
The critics seemed to be on point as Nadal failed to take either of the first two sets, leaving Medvedev in a commanding lead. Both have outstanding records, but with Nadal preferring a clay surface and Medvedev, a hardcourt specialist, there seemed to be only one possible conclusion.
And it's fair to say that Medvedev put in an impressive performance over the first two sets, with his colossal serve backing up his speed across the court.
The third set looked to be going the same way with Medvedev 3-2 up, and leading 40-0, but sheer grit and determination by Nadal, as well as fewer unforced errors, saw the Spanish player work his way back into the match.
Nadal, Djokovic and Federer were tied on 20 Grand Slam titles before the Australian Open, and all have a huge fanbase. Perhaps not surprising then that the crowd was clearly rooting for Nadal to win the match and take his 21st Grand Slam title, something which touched a nerve in the sensitive Medvedev.
The Russian player had previously admitted that his fiery emotions could negatively affect his performance on the court, and that seemed to play a part again. When Nadal's supporters cheered any point won by a lucky bounce, Medvedev sarcastically clapped in the direction of the crowd.
After the third set went to Nadal, Medvedev made a string of bitter complaints about the crowd to the umpire, blasting them as “empty brained” and “idiots”.
Although Nadal went on to take the final two sets, clinching the victory for his 21st title, Medvedev didn't make it easy. The giant Russian seemed to cover the court in a single leap, and there were some astonishing returns and rallies. But in the end, the experience of the Spaniard was enough to break Medvedev and claim victory.
Although Nadal has many titles to his name, this victory was clearly something extraordinary. Rivals Djokovic and Federer were both quick to praise the achievement, with the latter describing Nadal as a "great competitor and friend".
Nadal is aged just 35, the same age as Djokovic, while Federer is five years older at 40. Therefore, it would seem unlikely that Federer will overtake Nadal, and the Spaniard may well go on to be crowned the greatest of all time.