‘To my friend and great rival,’ these words may seem ordinary at first when it comes from one GOAT for the other; it’s a different story altogether. Rafael Nadal on Sunday scripted history as he became the first man to win 21 major titles, surpassing Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who both have 20 Grand Slam titles to their names.

It was always going to be a Herculean task for the 35-year-old Spaniard who was up against an opponent who was ten years younger than him and was ranked higher than Nadal. Medvedev made sure it was more than that as he raced to a two-set lead as a visibly fazed Rafa looked towards the heaven.

However, riding a wave of raucous support from the crowd, a vintage Nadal pulled off his most incredible escape to deny Medvedev a Grand Slam again. This effort was lauded by everyone who loves sports as social media went abuzz hailing what the Spaniard has done. One such fan was Roger Federer.

“What a match! To my friend and great rival @RafaelNadal, heartfelt congratulations on becoming the first man to win 21 Grand Slam singles titles. A few months ago we were joking about both being on crutches. Amazing. Never underestimate a great champion,” wrote Federer.

“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 honored to play a role in pushing you to achieve more, as you have done for me for the past 18 years. I am sure you have more achievements ahead but for now enjoy this one!” he added.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC HAILS RAFAEL NADAL’S ‘FIGHTING SPIRIT’

Roger Federer was not the only one who was impressed by Nadal’s effort on the Rod Laver Arena. Novak Djokovic, who was  forced out of Australia by deportation too had words of praise for the Spaniard.

” Congratulations to @RafaelNadal for 21st GS. Amazing achievement. Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time. Enhorabuena,” he wrote on Twitter.

Djokovic also lauded Daniil Medvedev’s efforts in the Australian Open summit clash. “@Medwed33 gave it his all out there and played with the passion and determination we have come to expect from him,” Djokovic’s tweet further read.

The 35-year-old has also become just the second player in the Open Era alongside Djokovic to win each of the four majors at least twice. He is also the third-oldest man in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam title after Ken Rosewall and Federer.

The Spaniard now has 58 ‘Big Titles’, putting him four behind Djokovic (62) and four clear of Roger Federer (54). A ‘Big Title’ is a trophy at a Grand Slam championship, the ATP Finals, an ATP Masters 1000 tournament, or an Olympic singles gold medal.

His victory was even more remarkable considering Nadal flew to Australia with just two matches under his belt in the second half of 2021 because he was sidelined with a chronic foot injury that can be treated but not cured. He also had a bout of COVID-19.

It was just the fourth time Nadal has rallied from two sets down to win a best-of-five-set match, and the first since a fourth-round victory in 2007 at Wimbledon over Mikhail Youzhny.

(With Agency Inputs)

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