Federer, Djokovic congratulate Nadal on No. 21

Rafael Nadal of Spain smiles during a press conference following his win over Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the men’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, early Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Simon Baker)

By Associated Press

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have offered their congratulations to Rafael Nadal for breaking their three-way tie atop the men’s Grand Slam standings and becoming the first member of the trio to win No. 21.

Federer and Djokovic both missed the Australian Open. Federer is recovering from his latest knee operation; Djokovic is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and he was deported when his visa was revoked after he flew to Melbourne.

Federer posted an Instagram message he addressed “to my friend and great rival.”

“A few months ago we were joking about both being on crutches. Amazing. Never underestimate a great champion,” Federer wrote. “Your incredible work ethic, dedication and fighting spirit are an inspiration to me and countless others around the world.”

Djokovic praised Nadal’s “amazing achievement” in a Twitter post that added: “Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time.”

Rafael Nadal got to 21 first.

The 35-year-old Spaniard has broken the men’s record for most Grand Slam singles titles but he had to do it the hard way by coming back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in an Australian Open final that lasted 5 hours and 24 minutes. He was broken when serving for the championship at 5-4 in the fifth set but made no mistake the next time.

It was the second longest Australian Open final after Novak Djokovic beat Nadal in five sets in 5 hours and 53 minutes in 2012.

Nadal now has one more than Roger Federer and Djokovic, his long-time rivals in the so-called Big Three.

With the 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 win that started Sunday night and was delayed for a while in the second set when a protester jumped onto the court, Nadal also becomes just the fourth man in history to win all four of the sport’s major titles at least twice.

Rafael Nadal has rallied from two sets down to take the Australian Open final to a fifth set against U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev.

Nadal took the third and fourth sets 6-4, 6-4 after Medvedev had opened a 6-2, 7-6 (5) lead. In the fourth, Nadal broke for a 5-3 lead and then had a set point but Medvedev saved and held to make the 20-time major winner have to serve it out again.

Nadal had no problem with that, holding at love. The match has already gone past 4 hours and 12 minutes.

The 35-year-old Spaniard’s bid for a men’s record 21st major title is still alive. He missed a chance to serve out the second set when he was broken in a game that lasted more than 12 minutes and was interrupted by a court invader. Nadal had been facing breakpoint in the ninth game of that set when the protester jumped from the stands into the playing arena at Medvedev’s end. Medvedev is still potentially one set from back-to-back major titles.