Rafael Nadal wins the Australian Open. | Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

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Simply incredible. On Sunday, Rafael Nadal came back from two sets to love down to beat Daniil Medvedev and claim his first Australian Open since 2009 and the 21st Grand Slam of his career, taking him above Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the all-time list.

He ran out the winner 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 after over five hours of what was a thoroughly absorbing and exhausting final. In the final set, it could have gone either way, Nadal's serve at one point seeming to desert him before having three championship points at 6-5. He didn't let them go, and so Nadal completed what may well rank as the greatest win in even his superlative career.

Medvedev was so dominant in the first set that the prospect of the match going to five sets looked remote. That it did owed everything to Nadal's remarkable tenacity, something he has displayed in recent months, returning from injury which he felt at one point may have been career-ending.

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Even in the absence of Djokovic and Federer, Nadal had not been favourite for the tournament because of his lack of competitive action. He had won an Australian Open warm-up event, but in the final he was up against a match-hardened Medvedev, who was looking for his second Grand Slam in a row. The achievement was therefore all the more astonishing.

After the match, Nadal said: "I don't know what to say, guys. For me it is just amazing. I did not know if I would be back on the tour playing tennis again. You don't know how much it means to be back here. You are amazing and thank you so much for all of your support.

"Without a doubt it is one of the most emotional (periods) of my career. To have the support I have received the last three weeks will stay in my heart. So many, many thanks."