Novak Djokovic has congratulated Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard won the Australian Open title to claim a record 21st Grand Slam crown to move ahead of the Serbian star in the all-time standings.
Nadal overcame Daniil Medvedev in a five-set epic in Melbourne on Sunday, battling back from two sets down to defeat the Russian in a marathon match lasting more than five hours.
Nadal’s triumph earned him a second Australian Open title to add to the one he claimed in 2009, and moved him one Grand Slam crown ahead of generational rivals Djokovic and Roger Federer in their tussle for the biggest all-time haul among men’s stars.
Djokovic was infamously denied the chance to defend his title in Australia this year after being deported from the country in a row which centered on his vaccine status.
But despite being absent, Djokovic graciously took to social media to congratulate Nadal as well as women’s singles champion Ash Barty – who on Saturday had become Australia’s first home Grand Slam singles champion in 44 years when she beat America’s Danielle Collins in the women’s final.
“There has been some outstanding tennis played at this year’s [Australian Open] and the finals were exceptional,” read a message from Djokovic.
“Congratulations to [Ash Barty] for an amazing performance in front of her home crowd and to [Danielle Collins] for an incredible tournament.
“Congratulations [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,” added Djokovic.
The congratulations from the 34-year-old world number one followed a similar message from fellow great Federer.
The Swiss icon likewise took to social media to salute Nadal for his achievement, which many had considered unlikely after the 35-year-old Spanish star was forced to miss much of last season with a foot injury and openly wondered whether his career was over.
“Your incredible work ethic, dedication and fighting spirit are an inspiration to me and countless others around the world,” wrote Federer, 40, in his message.
“I am proud to share this era with you and honored 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!”
Despite Nadal’s remarkable achievement – capped by one of the greatest finals Melbourne has ever seen on Sunday – some will still decry Djokovic’s absence from a tournament which he has won a record nine times.
The unvaccinated world number one had entered Australia with a medical exemption granted by Tennis Australia and Victoria state officials ahead of the tournament.
But Djokovic ended up being detained twice and then deported as the Australian government argued his presence in the country could stir anti-vaccine sentiment.
Sunday’s final between Medvedev and Nadal was interrupted at one stage by a protestor who was railing against the conditions of immigrants being detained in Australia – something which Djokovic’s plight had drawn added attention to.
The protestor leapt onto the Rod Laver Arena court with a banner reading “abolish refugee detention” before being escorted forcefully away by security staff and police.