1 of 6 | Rafael Nadal of Spain, who won the 2022 Australian Open men's final Monday in Melbourne, now owns the most major singles titles in men's tennis history (21). Photo by Dean Lewins/EPA-EFE
Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Rafael Nadal combated Daniil Medvedev's power serves with drop-shot finesse, staging a comeback victory in a long 2022 Australian Open men's singles final, which started Sunday and ended early Monday in Melbourne.
The victory gave Nadal his 21st Grand Slam singles title and set a record for the most major singles titles in men's tennis history. Nadal, 35, entered the match tied for the most titles with Roger Federer of Switzerland and Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
"This was one of the most emotional matches of my tennis career," Nadal said in his on-court interview.
"I don't know what to say. For me, it's just amazing. I didn't know if I'd be back on the tour playing tennis again [due to a foot injury]. I can't thank [fans] enough for all the support I've received."
The sixth-seeded Spaniard poked a backhand return away from Medvedev to end the five-hour, 24-minute thriller at Rod Laver Arena. That match was the second-longest major final in men's tennis history, trailing only a Nadal-Djokovic final from the 2012 Australian Open.
"What he did today was amazing," Medvedev said in his on-court interview. "I tried just to play tennis, but after the match I asked him if he was tired."
Medvedev, the No. 2 seed from Russia, won the first two sets 6-2, 7-6(5) before Nadal snatched momentum. The Spaniard tied the match with consecutive 6-4, 6-4 set victories to force a fifth set, which he won 7-5.
Medvedev used three aces to win the first game of the final set. He hit a return into the net to lose the next game point, but used his return to take a 2-1 lead with a third game victory.
Both players held their serves through the first four games of the fifth set. Nadal broke Medvedev's serve in the fifth game, taking a 3-2 lead into the sixth.
Medvedev and Nadal each won their next two service games. Medvedev and Nadal broke each other's respective serves in the next two games.
Nadal took a 40-0 lead in the final game on two Medvedev forced errors and an ace.
He then fired a forehand return to send Medvedev sprinting right. Medvedev answered with a return straight to Nadal, who finished with his backhand poke to the other side of the court for championship point.
Medvedev fired 23 aces, compared to a trio for Nadal. Nadal won 7 of 22 break points and fired 69 winners. Medvedev totaled 76 winners and won 6 of 22 break points.
"It was insane," Medvedev said. "The level was very high. He raised his level after two sets. He is an amazing champion."
Nadal claimed a $2.8 million prize for first place. Medvedev took home $1.5 million.
"I was [about] to say, maybe there is a chance that that is my last Australian Open, but I have plenty of energy left," Nadal said.
"I really can't explain the feelings I have now. I'm going to try my best to keep coming."
The 2022 French Open is the next Grand Slam tournament on schedule. That tournament runs from May 22 through June 5 in Paris. Nadal owns a record 13 singles titles from Roland Garros.