RAFAEL Nadal has made history with a record 21 grand slam titles after taking the Australian Open win last night in an epic and grueling match.

In an exhilarating back and forth that ran for almost five and a half hours, Nadal fought back from two sets to love down to defeat second seed Daniil Medvedev 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 in a drama-charged final at Melbourne Park.

The milestone victory has placed the Spaniard one slam clear of great rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic making him the first player to win 21 Grand Slams in men’s singles.

“Without a doubt, it’s one of the most emotional moments in my tennis career,” Nadal told the crowd.

Even more remarkably, Nadal had not played an official match since last August due to a crippling foot injury and remained an Australian Open doubt until the New Year, having tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of December.

“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,” he told his devoted fans.

His great rivals were quick to show their respect and admiration to such an incredible feat, with Novak Djokovic posting on twitter: “Congratulations to @RafaelNadal for 21st GS. Amazing achievement. Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time.”

Roger Federer shared his admiration for the Spanish legend on instagram:

To my friend and great rival @RafaelNadal, heartfelt congratulations on becoming the first man to win 21 grand slam titles. 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 inspiration to me and countless others around the world. 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 in the past 18 years. I am sure you have more achievements ahead of you, but for now enjoy this one!

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Asked if he now felt he was the greatest men’s player of all-time, Nadal’s reply was typically humble.

“Of course, I know it’s a special number, 21,” he said.

“I feel honoured, lucky to achieve one more very special thing in my tennis career.

“But 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, no? For me it’s about enjoying nights like today. That means everything for me.” he added.

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