Nadal recovered down two sets to love for the first time in 15 years to defeat second seed Daniil Medvedev 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 in a drama-charged climax to the Open at Melbourne Park.
The landmark victory in a five-hour, 24-minute war of attrition that finished well past midnight on Monday morning vaulted the Spaniard one slam clear of great rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on the all-time major titles leaderboard.
“If we put everything together – the scenario, the momentum, what (it) means – yeah, without a doubt (it’s) probably the biggest comeback of my tennis career,” an exhausted Nadal said.
The sapping encounter was the second-longest final in Open history – behind only Nadal’s five-hour, 53-minute loss to Djokovic in 2012 – with the 35-year-old admitting he was feeling “destroyed, physically”.
In claiming the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup for a second time, 13 years after his first triumph, Nadal joins Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Djokovic as only the fourth man in tennis history to win each of the four grand slam titles at least twice.
“Without a doubt, it’s one of the most emotional moments in my tennis career,” Nadal told the crowd.
“I’m going to keep trying my best to come back next year.”
Laver, fittingly, enjoyed a front-row view in the arena named in his honour as his fellow southpaw pulled off one of the most incredible wins of his legendary career.
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