Rafael Nadal made history Sunday at the Australian Open, defeating Daniil Medvedev for a record-setting 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title.
But it didn’t come easily.
In a rematch of the 2019 U.S. Open final that Nadal won in five sets, the 35-year-old Spaniard took down the 25-year-old Russian again in five sets after dropping the first two, 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
“Without a doubt it had been probably one of the most emotional of ones my tennis career,” Nadal said after winning major title No. 21. “Having the huge support that I received during the three weeks, it’s just going to stay in my heart for the rest of my life.”
Nadal’s Australian Open win comes after months away from the game because of a foot injury and a COVID-19 diagnosis during preparation for this event. He skipped Wimbledon after losing in the French Open semifinals to Novak Djokovic, and didn’t play at all after August.
Nadal surpasses two other tennis greats, Djokovic and Roger Federer, for the most major titles in tennis history among men. Djokovic (deported for being unvaccinated) and Federer (knee injury) did not play in this tournament.
Nadal’s last major victory came in the 2020 French Open. He last won the Australian Open in 2009.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Australian Open: Rafael Nadal wins for record-setting 21st Grand Slam