Rafa Nadal's startling response to question about Novak Djokovic
Rafa Nadal has sensationally declared he "doesn't care" about the men's grand slam record after moving past Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer with his 21st major.
Nadal was tied with Djokovic and Federer on 20 grand slam titles heading into the Australian Open, but now has one more than his great rivals after a stunning comeback in Sunday night's final.
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The 35-year-old recovered from two sets down 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.
The landmark victory in five hours and 24 minutes vaulted the Spaniard one grand slam title clear of Federer and Djokovic, who were both absent from Melbourne Park.
Djokovic was deported from the country after having his visa cancelled over his vaccination refusal, while Federer is still sidelined after a third knee surgery in 2021.
But when asked about moving past his great rivals and into the lead in the 'GOAT' race, Nadal said he doesn't really care about the record.
"Of course, I know it's a special number, 21," he said in his post-match press conference.
"I feel honoured, lucky to achieve one more very special thing in my tennis career.
"But I don't care much if I am the one, or not the one, or the best of the 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."
Djokovic and Federer pay tribute to Rafa Nadal
Djokovic and Federer both took to social media to congratulate Nadal in the aftermath of his historic triumph.
"To my friend and great rival Rafael Nadal, heartfelt congratulations on becoming the first man to win 21 Grand Slam singles titles," Federer wrote on Instagram.
"A few months ago we were joking about both being on crutches, amazing. Never underestimate a great champion.
“Your incredible work ethic, dedication and fighting spirit are an inspirational to me and countless others around the world.
“I am proud to share this era with you and honoured to play a role in pushing you to achieve more. As you have done for me for the past 18 years.
“I am sure you have more achievements ahead but for now enjoy this one!”
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Roger Federer about Rafael Nadal’s
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) January 30, 2022
Djokovic paid tribute to both Nadal and Ash Barty, who won the women's singles title.
"There has been some outstanding tennis played at this year’s Aus Open and the finals were exceptional," Djokovic wrote.
"Congratulations to Ash Barty for an amazing performance in front of her home crowd and to Danielle Collins for an incredible tournament.
"Congratulations to Rafael Nadal for 21st GS. Amazing achievement.
"Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time.
"Daniil Medvedev gave it his all out there and played with the passion and determination we have come to expect from him."
Congratulations to @RafaelNadal for 21st GS. Amazing achievement. Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time. Enhorabuena 👏🏆👍 @Medwed33 gave it his all out there and played with the passion and determination we have come to expect from him. pic.twitter.com/DsOvK8idNc
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 30, 2022
Nadal will now have a golden opportunity to win his 22nd major at the French Open in May.
Federer has said he is targeting a return at Wimbledon in July, while Djokovic's ability to play at Roland Garros is under a cloud due to his vaccination status.
It is believed he will be able to play in Paris because he had Covid-19 in the last six months and can therefore get a medical exemption to France's new vaccination passport.
Nadal has won a record 13 titles at the French Open, however he was beaten by Djokovic in the semi-finals last year.
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