Rafael Nadal has won a record-breaking 21st grand slam title, beating Daniil Medvedev 2-6 6-7 (5) 6-4 6-4 7-5 in the Australian Open tennis men’s singles final.
Most of the build-up focused on the historic significance of the Spaniard bidding for his 21st grand slam title, but he found himself under pressure from the start on Rod Laver Arena.
Medvedev stamped his authority on the final by dominating the first set. Nadal saved two break points in a long third game but was then broken to love in the fifth as Medvedev, who was booed onto court by a section of the crowd, proved the steadier from the baseline.
Successive double faults then contributed to a second straight break and Medvedev served out the set 6-2.
There were dramatic scenes with Nadal facing break point serving for the second set at 5-3 when a man waving a banner jumped out of the crowd and down onto the court.
He was only metres from Medvedev but was immediately tackled by several security men and hauled away before the match resumed.
Nadal began to play more offensively in the second set and twice managed to break the Medvedev serve.
But holding his own proved a constant challenge and Medvedev twice responded, saving a set point at 5-3 before hitting back to level.
Into a tie-break they went, and again Nadal led 5-3, but this time Medvedev produced a sequence of fine points to take it 7-5, ending it with a backhand pass and taunting the crowd, who responded with boos.
Nadal had not recovered from two sets down to win a match since beating Mikhail Youzhny at Wimbledon in 2007, while he faded physically after the first two sets against Denis Shapovalov and Matteo Berrettini here.
But his competitive desire has never been in doubt and recovering from 0-40 at 2-3 in third set to hold galvanised the Spaniard.
With Medvedev beginning to look weary and muddled in his shot selection, Nadal pounced at 4-4 before serving out the set 6-4.
Medvedev was allowing himself to become increasingly wound up by the crowd, appealing repeatedly to umpire John Blom to control the “idiots”.
His mood was not improved when he double-faulted to drop serve in the third game of the fourth set and, although he got back on terms immediately, Nadal took his seventh break point in the next game.
Nadal created a set point on his opponent’s serve at 5-3, which Medvedev saved, but the 20-time grand slam champion took it 6-4 on his own serve to level the contest.
Both men headed off court for a bathroom break but Medvedev could not break Nadal’s momentum, a trademark forehand passing shot from the Spaniard giving him a 3-2 lead in the deciding set.
The Russian had three chances to break back in the next game but could not take any of them and Nadal was two points away at 30-0 serving at 5-4.
But a double fault proved costly – and betrayed the tension of the moment – and a netted backhand from Nadal saw Medvedev break back for 5-5.
The Russian, though, could not hold his own serve, giving Nadal a second chance to serve for it.
This time he did not falter, bringing up three match points and clinching it 2-6 6-7 (5) 6-4 6-4 7-5 after five hours and 24 minutes at 1.11am local time.