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Rafael Nadal broke a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic by claiming his 21st Grand Slam title Sunday, coming back to beat Daniil Medvedev, 2-6, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, in the 2022 Australian Open men's singles final. Nadal rallied from two sets down -- just the third comeback from 0-2 at a major for Nadal in his career and first since 2007 -- to win the marathon five-setter.

"One month and a half ago, I didn't know if I was going to be able to be back on the tour playing tennis again," Nadal said in his post-match speech. "And today, I am here in front of all of you having this trophy with me and you really don't know how much I fought to be here. I can't thank you enough for all the support that I received since I arrived here."

Nadal was sidelined with a recurring foot injury since last May, even having to undergo an operation that left him on crutches just four months ago. Then, in December 2021, Nadal suffered from a breakthrough case of COVID-19. Following Nadal's first-round victory at the 2022 Australian Open, he told Eurosport Spain: "A month and a half ago I didn't know if I would play tennis again at a professional level due to various factors, including the problems I've had with my foot and with COVID."

This was the second Grand Slam meeting for Medvedev and Nadal, who are establishing an epic intergenerational rival. The pair faced each other in another final, at the 2019 US Open, which was also a five-set match in Nadal's favor. Medvedev, 25, has a near-identical playing approach as Nadal, returning far behind the baseline and covering the court with impressive speed. On paper, Medvedev holds the advantage as a better hard court player whereas Nadal is known to be more dominant on clay court. At 6 feet, 6 inches, Medvedev also sports a massive serve and impenetrable defense.

Medvedev was aiming to follow his 2021 US Open title with a consecutive Grand Slam win and had another chance to play spoiler to history. In the 2021 US Open final, Medvedev thwarted Djokovic's bid for the calendar Grand Slam and Grand Slam No. 21. But, beating Djokovic and Nadal in back-to-back Grand Slam finals is no easy task. In fact, Federer and Stan Wawrinka are the only players that have beaten both Djokovic and Nadal in Grand Slam finals.

At one point in this championship match, Medvedev was two sets up at 3-2 and 40-0, but the more experienced Nadal was able to utilize perfectly executed volleys and passing shots to complete the seemingly impossible comeback. Pure grit and determination certainly played a factor in the five-hour, 24-minute final, as well. In the first two sets, Nadal was struggling with unforced errors during the longer rallies, but began to successfully shorten the points in the third set. Nadal finished the third set with four consecutive winners to serve it out and win 6-4. It was Medvedev who quickly fell behind in the fourth set at 5-3 following a handful of ill-advised drop shots. Nadal wobbled in the fifth at 5-3, but ultimately held to close it out at 7-5. Where Medvedev was playing in just the third final of his young career, the 2022 Australian Open was Nadal's 29th Grand Slam final.

Nadal, 35, along with Federer and Djokovic make up the generation-defining Big Three that has dominated the professional circuit for well over a decade now. With Nadal's 2022 Australian Open championship, the second of his storied career, he breaks the Grand Slam record that he, Djokovic and Federer held in a tie at 20 titles each. Djokovic, 34, lost his bid to compete in this year's Australian Open as an unvaccinated player after he was denied by government officials.

In 2019, Federer had match points against Djokovic at the Wimbledon final to reach Grand Slam No. 21 but fell short. In 2021, Djokovic lost to Medvedev at the US Open final in straight sets, also falling short of reaching 21. Now, Nadal has seized his opportunity to earn the 21st title of his career. Furthermore, Nadal can continue to expand his lead if he plans to play in this year's French Open where he owns a record 13 titles, winning the championship on clay as recently as 2020. Djokovic's status for the French Open (along with the other Grand Slams) is still in doubt due to his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccination. Federer, meanwhile, has yet to make his return to the court in 2022 following knee surgery in August 2021.

With Nadal's second Australian Open title, he breaks the Open Era record for the longest span between first and second title at the same Grand Slam at 13 years apart. Nadal won his first Australian Open title in 2009, in a 4-hour and 23 minute five-set match against Roger Federer. Prior, Jimmy Connors held the men's record at eight years apart (Wimbledon 1974 and 1982). Nadal also becomes just the fourth man in the Open Era to capture every Grand Slam twice.

Road to the Final:

Nadal (seeded No. 6 in tournament)
R1: def. Marcos Giron, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2
R2: def. Yannick Hanfmann, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4
R3: def. No. 28 Karen Khachanov, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1
R4: def. Adrian Mannarino, 7-6 (16-14), 6-2, 6-2
QF: def. No. 14 Denis Shapovalov, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3
SF: def. No. 7 Matteo Berrettini, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3

Medvedev (seeded No. 2 in tournament)
R1: def. Henri Laaksonen, 6-1 ,6-4, 7-6 (7-3)
R2: def. Nick Kyrgios, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
R3: def. Botic van de Zandschulp, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2
R4: def. Maxime Cressy, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (4-7), 7-5
QF: def. Felix Auger Aliassime, 6-7 (4-7), 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5, 6-4
SF: def. No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1