New world number one Daniil Medvedev says Friday's Mexican Open semi-final against Rafael Nadal is his "chance to get my revenge" after last month's epic Australian Open defeat.

Medvedev progressed to the final four in Acapulco on Thursday with a routine 6-2 6-3 victory over Yoshihito Nishioka, while Nadal triumphed 6-0 7-6 (7-5) over Tommy Paul to set up their semi-final meeting.

The Russian's win capped a fine day after Novak Djokovic's loss to Jiri Vesely at the Dubai Tennis Championships meant he would next week become the new world number one for the first time in his career.

Before then, however, Medvedev must take on Nadal in Acapulco, with the pair having not faced off since last month's epic Australian Open decider, where the Spanish fought back from two set downs to clinch a record-breaking 21st major title.

"It’s always special to play against him,” Medvedev said following his win over Nishioka. “Kind of a chance to get my revenge.

“I have to learn from the best, which is him, Roger [Federer], Novak [Djokovic], Andy [Murray]. Always when they were losing a tough fight, they were trying to get their revenge. Sometimes they managed to do it, sometimes not. That’s what I’m going to try to do if I play Rafa."

Medvedev revealed he did not realise that Djokovic's loss would mean he would become number one until he started receiving congratulatory messages on Thursday.

"It’s not easy to play a match when you get this news during the day," Medvedev said.

"The first goal for me was to still win today because I’m here to try to win every match I play. But it’s definitely some great news."

Nadal was full of praise for the new world number one, admitting his excitement at their re-match.

The Spaniard prevailed in five hours and 28 minutes over Medvedev in Melbourne, winning 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 and was ready for the re-match.

"Everybody knows how difficult it is to play against Daniil," Nadal said after Thursday's win over Paul.

"I know I have to play at my highest level if I want to have any chance, and that's what I'm going to try. I have to play my game.

"Everybody knows how difficult the final was in Australia. Tomorrow is going to be another battle.

"I know he's playing well, plenty of confidence... I am excited to play that match."

Rafael Nadal set up a semi-final meeting with new world number one Daniil Medvedev after cruising past Tommy Paul 6-0 7-6 (7-5) at the Mexican Open in Acapulco on Thursday.

The Spanish fourth seed, who won last month's Australian Open against Medvedev in a five-set epic for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title, beat the American in two hours and three minutes.

Nadal was at his tenacious best early, winning the first set 6-0 for the second consecutive match, before Paul hit back in the second.

The Spaniard dropped only 10 points in the opening set with errors creeping into his game early in the second set allowing Paul to get 2-1 up a break.

The pair exchanged a string of four games against serve, with Nadal breaking again with Paul serving for the set, before triumphing in the tie-break.

Top seed Medvedev secured his spot in the last four with a 6-2 6-3 victory over Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka.

Medvedev, who will officially become world number one for the first time in his career next week after Novak Djokovic's loss to Jiri Vesely in Dubai, brushed aside the Japanese in one hour and 10 minutes.

The Russian sent down 12 aces and won 69 per cent on his first serve, while he converted six of eight break points across the match.

Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will meet Briton Cameron Norrie in the other semi-final after both triumphed on Thursday.

Tsitsipas won his quarter-final against Marcus Giron 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 17 minutes, while sixth seed Norrie made light work of Peter Gojowczyk 6-1 6-0.

At the Chile Open in Santiago, local top seed Cristian Garin was stunned by countryman Alejandro Tabilo 6-3 6-3.

Sixth seed Miomir Kecmanovic won 6-2 6-0 over Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida, while Yannick Hanfmann eased past Thiago Seyboth Wild 6-1 6-3.

Rafael Nadal hopes Alexander Zverev's withdrawal from the Mexico Open will "serve as a lesson" for him and other players when it comes to controlling their emotions on the court.

The world number three was pulled out of this month's tournament in Acapulco following an outburst where he hit the umpire's chair with his racquet in a tirade following a doubles defeat.

The ATP subsequently barred him from competition for a second-round singles clash, with several leading players, including Novak Djokovic, condemning the German's actions.

Speaking ahead of his own quarter-final this week, Nadal - who won a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam in at the Australian Open last month - stated he hoped the 24-year-old and other young players would learn that such behaviour is not acceptable.

"It's unfortunate, without a doubt," the Spaniard said. "I feel sorry for him as I have a good relationship with Alexander.

"In the end, he deserves the sanction because you can't act in this way.

"I think Sascha is aware of that and I hope this will serve as a lesson for him and for other young players who sometimes lose control on the court.

"I am not going to enter into what is or is not fair in terms of sanction," Nadal said. "But in the end you have to stop that type of attitude from becoming fashionable."

Zverev had been due to face Peter Gojowczyk in a singles encounter before he exploded at the end of his match with partner Marcelo Melo against Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara.

Following an over-ruled decision from the umpire that handed the latter pair match point in a super tie-break, the duo decided the game with an ace the very next serve.

That led to Zverev smashing his racquet against the umpire's chair on multiple occasions in quick succession, punctured by a foul-mouthed tirade.

The Tokyo 2020 champion subsequently apologised for his behaviour. The Mexico Open continues until February 26.

Rafael Nadal sealed his 12th consecutive win of the new season after a straight sets victory over Stefan Kozlov at the Mexican Open.

Nadal's 12-0 record to begin the year is the best of his illustrious career, and he never looked in any trouble as he eased to a 6-0 6-3 win against the American to advance to the quarter-finals in Acapulco.

The Australian Open champion's next opponent will be Tommy Paul after he beat Dusan Lajovic 7-6 (8-6) 2-6 7-5.

"A little bit of a strange match," Nadal said following his win. "Kozlov has a different style than most other players, so you need to be very careful. Sometimes you are able to win points in a row, but then if you start to play at his rhythm, it's very difficult because he has great control from the baseline and he's very smart."

Number one seed Daniil Medvedev is also safely through after comfortably defeating Pablo Andujar 6-1 6-2, and he will now go up against Yoshihito Nishioka after his victory against Feliciano Lopez.

Stefanos Tsitsipas managed to finish his match against J.J. Wolf in less than 48 minutes as he romped to a 6-0 6-1 win, while his quarter-final opponent Marcos Giron had a much tougher time of it getting past eighth seed Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 7-6 (7-4).

Cameron Norrie also came from a set down to beat John Isner 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 6-4, and the sixth seed will now face Peter Gojowczyk after the German received a walkover following his compatriot Alexander Zverev being "withdrawn" from the singles competition after attacking the umpire's chair at the end of his defeat in the doubles.

Meanwhile, in the Chile Open, second seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas beat fellow Spaniard Carlos Taberner 6-2 7-6 (7-4) and will face eighth seed Facundo Bagnis in the quarter-finals after the Argentinian secured a win against Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-2.

Thiago Monteiro fought hard to get past third seed Federico Delbonis with a 3-6 6-4 6-1 victory, and will go up against seventh seed Sebastian Baez in the last eight, who defeated Juan Ignacio Londero 6-3 6-3.

Rafael Nadal equalled the best start to a season in his career after winning his first match at the Mexican Open on Tuesday.

In his first match since a record 21st grand slam title in Australia, Nadal was a comfortable 6-3 6-2 winner over Denis Kudla, dropping only four points on serve.

Nadal is now 11-0 for the season, equalling the start he made in 2014, when his winning run was ended by Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open final.

"I think I started playing well, a good victory in straight sets. That's always very positive for the confidence," said Nadal. "I think I played a very solid match for the first day.

"Of course, there are a couple of things that I can do better, but in general terms, I played well, so I can't complain at all."

Daniil Medvedev, who had also not played since the final in Melbourne, came through a tougher contest against Benoit Paire 6-3 6-4 in his opening match in Acapulco.

Medvedev held a two-set lead and looked in control before Nadal came roaring back to claim the Australian Open title, but the Russian could claim a landmark achievement in his first tournament since that heartbreak.

Medvedev, who faces Pablo Andujar next, will become world number one if he wins in Mexico, regardless of Novak Djokovic's performances in Dubai.

"It's always not easy to come back after some rest and some time off competition," he said. "I felt like my sensations were not at the top today, but I managed to fight until the end against a very tough opponent, and I'm happy that I managed to win."

Stefanos Tsitsipas racked up the 200th win of his career, holding off Laslo Djere to win two tie-breaks. He will now face J.J. Wolf, who surprised Lorenzo Sonego by fighting back from a set down to win 3-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-2.

Cameron Norrie was a straight-sets winner over Daniel Altmaier, while Yoshihito Nishioka battled through against veteran Feliciano Lopez.

Tommy Paul progressed after Matteo Berrettini retired when the American was poised to tie the match at one set all. John Millman also had to call an early halt to his match with Marcos Giron after a freak accident on court in which the Australian accidentally hit a ball into his eye.

At the Chile Open, home favourite Alejandro Tabilo beat Renzo Olivo in straight sets, while fifth seed Federico Coria was earlier knocked out by Yannick Hanfmann.

Miomir Kecmanovic defeated Marco Cecchinato, while there were also wins for seeds Sebastian Baez and Facundo Bagnis.

World number one Novak Djokovic has praised Rafael Nadal for his "incredible" triumph by winning last month's Australian Open after his own deportation forced him to miss the event.

Nadal moved beyond Djokovic with his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne with a five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Djokovic was unable to compete in Melbourne due to his vaccination status, deported amid an ugly saga after arriving in Melbourne expecting to be permitted to play.

The Serbian, who returned to the ATP Tour on Monday with a 6-3 6-3 win over Lorenzo Musetti at the Dubai Tennis Championships, was gracious in praising Nadal, who had a nagging foot injury dog him late last year.

"I think it was four, five months ago that he was on the crutches and now he's winning a slam. It's incredible," Djokovic told reporters after beating Musetti.

"I've got tons of respect for him. I don't want to take anything away from his victory, me not participating in the tournament regardless."

The Serbian was pressed on missing the Australian Open and added: "Of course, it wasn't a pleasant feeling for me leaving the country the way I did and watching the tournament from far away."

Djokovic will play either Karen Khachanov or Alex de Minaur in the second round in Dubai, while Nadal is competing at the Mexican Open, with a match against Denis Kudla on Tuesday.

World number one Novak Djokovic has praised Rafael Nadal for his "incredible" triumph by winning last month's Australian Open after his own deportation forced him to miss the event.

Nadal moved beyond Djokovic with his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne with a five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Djokovic was unable to compete in Melbourne due to his vaccination status, deported amid an ugly saga after arriving in Melbourne expecting to be permitted to play.

The Serbian, who returned to the ATP Tour on Monday with a 6-3 6-3 win over Lorenzo Musetti at the Dubai Tennis Championships, was gracious in praising Nadal, who had a nagging foot injury dog him late last year.

"I think it was four, five months ago that he was on the crutches and now he's winning a slam. It's incredible," Djokovic told reporters after beating Musetti.

"I've got tons of respect for him. I don't want to take anything away from his victory, me not participating in the tournament regardless."

The Serbian was pressed on missing the Australian Open and added: "Of course, it wasn't a pleasant feeling for me leaving the country the way I did and watching the tournament from far away."

Djokovic will play either Karen Khachanov or Alex de Minaur in the second round in Dubai, while Nadal is competing at the Mexican Open, with a match against Denis Kudla on Tuesday.

World number one Novak Djokovic has praised Rafael Nadal for his "incredible" triumph by winning last month's Australian Open after his own deportation forced him to miss the event.

Nadal moved beyond Djokovic with his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne with a five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Djokovic was unable to compete in Melbourne due to his vaccination status, deported amid an ugly saga after arriving in Melbourne expecting to be permitted to play.

The Serbian, who returned to the ATP Tour on Monday with a 6-3 6-3 win over Lorenzo Musetti at the Dubai Tennis Championships, was gracious in praising Nadal, who had a nagging foot injury dog him late last year.

"I think it was four, five months ago that he was on the crutches and now he's winning a slam. It's incredible," Djokovic told reporters after beating Musetti.

"I've got tons of respect for him. I don't want to take anything away from his victory, me not participating in the tournament regardless."

The Serbian was pressed on missing the Australian Open and added: "Of course, it wasn't a pleasant feeling for me leaving the country the way I did and watching the tournament from far away."

Djokovic will play either Karen Khachanov or Alex de Minaur in the second round in Dubai, while Nadal is competing at the Mexican Open, with a match against Denis Kudla on Tuesday.

Rafael Nadal would "welcome" seeing Novak Djokovic play at future grand slam tournaments if he is granted permission to do so unvaccinated against COVID-19.

World number one Djokovic has courted controversy for his views on being jabbed and was last month deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.

Djokovic has confirmed he is willing to miss future slams after stating he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

In Djokovic's absence, Nadal became Australian Open champion and now has 21 titles – the most for a male player.

Nadal believes that any further omissions from Djokovic would only be harmful to the Serbian's chances of history not the slams themselves, but he would have no issue with his rival playing in the sport's biggest tournaments.

Speaking ahead of his return to the ATP Tour in Acapulco, Nadal said: "It will affect Novak's [grand slam] history if he can't play.

"It will affect him, not the grand slams themselves. Whoever wins the most slams – it will be what it will be. Everyone takes their own decisions and must live with them.

"In that sense, hopefully the pandemic subsides and we stop having so many deaths around the world and this horror ends, and we can return to normality – not for Novak but for the world in general.

"There are many people that have suffered, but if Novak can play the grand slams unvaccinated, then he is welcome."

 

Nadal defeated Daniil Medvedev in an epic Melbourne showpiece to become the first man to 21 slams, but he says the achievement has not changed his life.

"Absolutely nothing has changed having 21 slams, I won't lie to you," he added.

"From 20 to 21 there is not a very large difference. Life goes on exactly the same. The only thing that has changed is that now I play tennis, which a few months ago I couldn't.

"I am very happy for everything that happened in Australia, it was very unexpected, especially before the tournament started. In my life, nothing has changed. No title is going to change what is important in my life, which are other things.

"Already, at 35 years old, I have a lot of experiences behind me, of successes and bad moments and these sensations already help me to live in a more calm and different way."

Pep Guardiola does not believe Jurgen Klopp has given up on the Premier League title race and says Manchester City and Liverpool have changed the standards in England's top flight, much like Rafael Nadal in tennis.

Klopp's Liverpool are nine points adrift of reigning champions City, albeit the Reds have a game in hand over their sensational rivals.

As well as that extra game, Liverpool still have to face City again in the league in April, as the two most dominant teams in the division over the past few seasons again battle it out alone for supremacy.

However, when asked about Liverpool's pursuit of City by BT Sport after beating Leicester City 2-0 on Thursday, Klopp laughed and replied: "I don't think they smell our breath already, but we just try to win football games."

Guardiola, though, has no doubt Klopp has full belief he and his side can still finish on top come the end of the season.

"I don't believe him. Absolutely I'd believe, and he thinks the same that anything can happen," he said ahead of City facing Norwich City this weekend.

"He has to win a lot of games."

Manchester City won the title with a record 100 points in the 2017-18 season, before retaining their title with 98 the following campaign – one more than Liverpool managed.

Liverpool's own title triumph in 2019-2020 was achieved with 99 points, and Guardiola said the two teams have set new standards – much like tennis great Nadal did when he won his 21st singles grand slam title at the Australian Open, a record for a male player.

"The first title was 100 points and the margin was bigger, nine points or maybe six, it's nothing. When you have 40 points to play it can happen," he added.

"Both teams have shown it, they can do it again and so can we. Same managers, squads and ideas. They can do it and so can we. That is the reality. 

"We have to look at what we do tomorrow. When we have this many games and they are tough, we look at the next game, with the big problems, that's why it’s the best title in England. 

"So many problems and so many teams, these two teams are so consistent. This run we are on and we are only six points ahead, because the opponent is so good. We will play game by game.

"Us and Liverpool have risen the standards, getting 100 points. Liverpool with 98 and 99. Other teams look at that as the level. 

"When you win the 100 metres race, that is the standard. Nadal has 21 grand slams, that is the standard. He marked that."

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will combine for Team Europe in this year's Laver Cup.

Nadal became the record holder for men's singles grand slam titles on Sunday, as he came from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in the final of the Australian Open.

Federer, who like Novak Djokovic has 20 grand slam titles to his name, has not featured since losing to Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year.

The Swiss star is recovering from a knee injury and chose to sit out the season's first major in Melbourne.

However, injury permitting, the great rivals will team up to represent Team Europe in London in September.

Europe have won the last four editions of the tournament, though neither Nadal nor Federer featured in 2021.

"The Laver Cup is such a unique event and I've loved competing in it," said Nadal, who has played in the competition on two occasions previously.

"I suggested to Roger we should play doubles together in London and he seems keen, so now we just need to persuade our captain Bjorn [Borg].

"Roger has been a huge part of my career, a big rival and also a true friend. To be part of Team Europe together is great and if we're able to possibly share the court one more time as a doubles pairing then this would be a truly special experience for us both at this stage in our careers."

 

Federer added: "I'm really looking forward to getting back into competition later this year and Laver Cup is very much part of my plan.

"It's no secret that I love the event and I'm super excited to be returning to The O2 and to London, one of the greatest cities in the world.

"Rafa is an incredible person and an inspiration to me and countless others around the world. He messaged me on social media after the Laver Cup in Boston last year suggesting we play doubles in London and I am definitely up for a Laver Cup 'Fedal' comeback!"

Federer and Nadal have only teamed up for a doubles match once before – in the inaugural Laver Cup back in 2017.

They beat American duo Jack Sock and Sam Querrey in three sets.

Rafael Nadal is motivated to win more grand slams than rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic come the end of the trio's careers, but he believes he will need more than 21 to achieve that.

Spaniard Nadal sealed a record 21st grand slam title on Sunday at the Australian Open, beating Daniil Medvedev 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 in a marathon five hours and 24 minutes.

It was only the second Australian Open title of Nadal's decorated career and put him out ahead of Djokovic and Federer (both 20) as the man to have won the most grand slams of all time.

Nadal worried his career was over just a matter of weeks ago as he struggled to recover from the foot injury that has affected a large part of his career.

He abandoned a stop-start 2021 season in August and missed Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open, leaving many to wonder if Nadal would ever be a force at the top level again.

Now, the 35-year-old is the man to beat once more, although he suspects he will need to add more major titles to his name to ensure he is ahead of his two great rivals when their careers are over.

"A short time ago I would have accepted just being able to just play tennis and not to win any more grand slams, but now I have 21," he told a media conference. 

"My way of seeing it doesn't change. I want to be the one with more grand slams at the end of the careers of the three of us, because nowadays it is the three of us. Yes, I would like that, but I am not obsessed by it and it does not frustrate me that I might not be the one. 

"Honestly, I don't think that 21 will be enough to end up being who has more grand slams, but the future will tell what will happen. Again, I feel fortunate in this life.

"All three of us have won more than we could have dreamed when we were kids. I understand the debate of who is the best, and it feeds the fans, but I don't think about it like that. As always, I try to do it my way and not focus on others.

"I follow my way and if that allows me to have options to fight in order to have more moments like the ones I've just had, it will be welcome. I will fight for it and I hope to keep having chances if my physical condition allows me."

Nadal's focus now turns to the Indian Wells Masters, which starts on March 10, with it appearing unlikely he will play in Acapulco a fortnight earlier. 

"My first priority is to try to analyse how I am after the Australian Open," he added. "I need a few days and then I will analyse things with calm and clarity. 

"For Indian Wells, I would say I have the maximum determination to go if there isn't any setbacks. For Acapulco, I would like to be there but I have to make a smart choice. The perspective has changed and I do have to take decisions according to what my body allows me."

Roger Goodell's description of Tom Brady on Tuesday as merely "one of the greatest to ever play in the NFL" felt a little generous to the competition. 

In the period of claim and counter-claim between reports of his retirement on Saturday and confirmation on Tuesday, the verdict had been cast – not that it was ever in doubt. 

Among others, Patrick Mahomes, better placed than most to consider quality quarterback play, told ESPN: "His career is one of a kind. That's why he's the GOAT." 

There is no dispute, no debate: Brady is the greatest. 

The 44-year-old leads the way by most metrics, including the most important one, with an unprecedented seven Super Bowl championships. 

Yet the stunning nature of some of those successes mean the emotional argument in Brady's favour is as convincing as the statistical one. 

Unmoved by his NFL-record 84,520 passing yards? Try the Super Bowl LI comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. 

This career had it all, and most dissenting voices had long since disappeared by the time Brady arrived in Tampa in 2020 "as the greatest football player of all time", as Bruce Arians put it. He still had another title in him. 

But Brady has not just set the standard in the NFL for the past 22 years; his achievements are surely unmatched across the entire sporting world. 

BEATING THE BEST

Wrestling with past legacies is never easy for an elite sports star. Even as the best of their generation, comparisons will be drawn with those who have gone before. 

In the case of LeBron James in the NBA, Michael Jordan casts a long shadow. 

James may now widely be considered the second-greatest player in the history of the league, but the gap to the number one spot scarcely seems to be closing, even now with titles and Finals MVP recognition on three different teams – and his own Space Jam sequel. 

Elsewhere, Formula One's Lewis Hamilton has done what James could not with Jordan in matching Michael Schumacher's haul of titles. 

But when Hamilton closed in on a record-breaking eighth drivers' championship in 2021, rival Sebastian Vettel scoffed: "Even if Lewis wins, to me Michael is still the greatest. Lewis can win one more, two more, three more, five more championships, but it doesn't change anything for me." 

The combination of being unable to see two athletes side by side and having memories tinged with nostalgia makes life hard on the modern great. 

For Brady, Joe Montana was the closest thing to a Jordan or Schumacher figure at quarterback. 

Although Montana ranked sixth for all-time passing yards – Dan Marino, the 20th century's passing yards leader, never won a title – his four Super Bowls had matched Terry Bradshaw's benchmark and were still fresh enough in the memory in 2000, the last coming in the 1989 season. 

Yet that was a gap Brady was swiftly able to bridge. By August 2005, with three rings already in his collection, the headline of a GQ profile asked if the Patriots passer was "the best there ever was". 

At 27, 10 years younger than James and Hamilton are now, there appeared little doubt Brady would leave Marino behind. 

TOP OF HIS CLASS

Perhaps Brady benefited from the standard of the competition. His career overlapped with Brett Favre at the start, Mahomes at the end and met with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers somewhere around the middle, all of them forcing him to raise his game. 

But such depth of talent can so easily muddy the waters. 

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have matched each other stride for stride, meaning there remains no consensus pick for football's 'GOAT'. Both merit the position, yet neither have dominated an era like Pele or Diego Maradona. 

In tennis, the tussle is even more intense. Until Rafael Nadal's Australian Open triumph on Sunday, three men were tied on a record 20 grand slam titles. 

Injuries to Roger Federer and coronavirus complications with Novak Djokovic may be enough to keep Nadal at the summit, but personal preference dictates the all-time rankings when the margins are so fine. 

Again, however, Brady came through. None of those modern-day rivals have won three Super Bowls, let alone matching Montana's four or Brady's staggering seven. 

Mahomes had appeared the most likely to challenge that mark in the years to come, but four seasons as a starter have now yielded one title. At the same point, Brady had three and that GQ headline. 

"To win that many Super Bowls and win that many games, it's hard," Mahomes said after losing Sunday's AFC Championship Game. "I understand that. The years that I've had, I've been close a lot.  

"I've only been there twice, and I've only won once. I understand it takes a special player ... for that to happen." 

In Joe Burrow, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert, Mahomes will not have it easy going forward either – an exciting new generation guarding Brady's legacy, not that he could not have done it himself had he chosen to play on. 

Brady, in the regular season and playoffs, holds a 3-2 record against Mahomes, 4-0 against Allen and 1-0 against Herbert. He never faced Burrow, potentially the next Super Bowl-winning QB. 

Instead, the perennial winner departs not as a champion – he has been that enough times – but as undoubtedly the best player his sport has ever seen. A rare phenomenon indeed. 

Rafael Nadal remains adamant he is not playing the numbers game as he navigates the twilight years of his career, but a record 21st grand slam title still felt "very special" to the Spaniard.

As he put it himself, what was perhaps the most unexpected major of his career was also one of the most emotional.

"That means everything for me," said Nadal, after the 35-year-old wrestled with Daniil Medvedev for five hours and 24 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, roaring back from two sets adrift to earn a 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 epic victory.

Nadal worried his career was over just a matter of weeks ago, he said, as he struggled to recover from the foot injury that has affected a large part of his career.

He abandoned a stop-start 2021 season in August, and missed Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open, leaving many to wonder if Nadal would ever be a force at the top level again.

At the age of 35, he is suddenly the man to beat again, having moved ahead of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the list of the most successful men's singles players in grand slam history.

They both have 20, and Nadal now has 21.

Federer, who at the age of 40 is battling to return from knee trouble, hailed Nadal as "a great champion" and "an inspiration", while Djokovic saluted an "amazing achievement".

If their social media posts came through gritted teeth, both would surely appreciate the resilience of their great Spanish rival, not just in this match but across his career. In turn, Nadal says he would have no qualms finishing behind either when their final career totals are totted up.

"I don't want to change my point of view, honestly," said Nadal, who began his post-final news conference at 02:42 on Monday morning in Melbourne.

"For me it's amazing to achieve another grand slam at this moment of my career. It just means a lot to me. Of course, I know it's a special number, 21. I know what it means. It's a big significance this title."

Nadal says what matters most is the enjoyment of the big moments, rather than whether he finishes first, second or third in the private rivalry he, Federer and Djokovic have been ducking out for years.

"Today is an unforgettable day," he said. "For the last six months, I really fought a lot to try to be back on court. There have been very, very tough moments and conversations, because you don't know if I'm going to have the chance to be back on the tour.

"I feel honoured. I feel lucky to achieve one more very special thing in my tennis career. I don't care much if I am the one or not the one or the best of history, not the best of the history.

"Honestly, today I don't care much. For me, it's about enjoying nights like today. That means everything for me."

This was Nadal's second Australian Open title, a full 13 years since he beat Federer in another five-set duel.

"It is the most unexpected, without a doubt," Nadal said. "And the most surprising I think for everyone. It has been a very emotional night. Even now I am destroyed, honestly, physically."

He said he was too tried to celebrate, his body having taken a thrashing. In December, Nadal tested positive for COVID-19, adding a further complication before heading to Melbourne.

A warm-up event title put Nadal in a positive mindset heading into the Australian Open, but how the foot would hold up remained to be seen.

He said the injury is "difficult to fix, impossible really", but for now it is manageable. At one point during his recovery he said there had been "zero success" in getting to grips with the problem, saying it was "heartbreaking" at times.

"I just want to enjoy this moment," he said, back on top of the world, "and, of course, try to keep going."

Rafael Nadal was on the brink of another Australian Open final defeat before a remarkable turnaround against Daniil Medvedev.

Trailing by two sets to love, Nadal found himself staring at three break points midway through the third set on Rod Laver Arena.

But he recovered and stepped up his game, clinching a record-breaking 21st grand slam title with a 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 victory over Medvedev in an enthralling encounter that lasted five hours and 24 minutes.

Medvedev had his chances, but the US Open champion suffered his third defeat in four major finals.

Stats Perform looks at some of the key moments.

Nadal serving at 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 2-3

Medvedev looked on his way to a deserved and resounding win when Nadal – who had lost four Australian Open finals previously – found himself in a 0-40 hole.

But a drop shot winner from Nadal was followed by a long Medvedev backhand, with the Russian trying a drop shot that the Spaniard returned too well on his final break point chance. It would prove a decisive hold for Nadal.

"Yeah, that was a good moment when I had the triple break point," Medvedev said afterwards. "Actually, I don't remember all of them in detail, but I remember that all of three returns I made it in. I just got a little bit tight. But, again, that's tennis. I should have done better. I should have hit a winner. I maybe would have won the match.

"Tactically nothing changed. I feel like I was playing right. But Rafa stepped up. The only thing that physically was a little bit up and down, and yeah, he was I think stronger than me physically today. Starting from the third set, there were some shots and points where I was a little bit on the back foot, let's call it like this. And Rafa takes control of these moments.

"But again, yeah, I have to work harder."

Medvedev serving at 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 4-4

The vocal and enthusiastic crowd was beginning to impact Medvedev, and Nadal's level was improving.

A long forehand at 15-15 was followed by an inexplicable overhead drop shot attempt by Medvedev that hit the net, leading to sarcastic clapping of the crowd.

Nadal clinched the break with a wonderful backhand winner down the line.

Medvedev serving at 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 2-2

Medvedev had already recovered from being a break down in the fourth set when Nadal struck again after a lengthy fifth game.

An excellent return saw Medvedev net a backhand and Nadal converted his seventh break point of the game with a backhand cross-court passing shot winner.

Medvedev serving at 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 4-6 5-5

Medvedev had stopped Nadal's momentum in the previous game when the Spaniard was attempting to serve out the match.

But Nadal broke again when Medvedev pulled a backhand wide before sending a forehand long.

Nadal serving at 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 6-5

Nadal was never going to let a second chance go begging.

Medvedev put a running forehand into the net and a backhand return long before an ace from Nadal set up three championship points.

He only needed one, making a backhand volley to become the first player in the Open Era to win an Australian Open final from two sets to love down.

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