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‘An inspiration to me’ – Federer and Djokovic post classy messages to ‘great rival’ Rafa Nadal after record 21st Slam

CLASSY Roger Federer hailed ‘inspirational’ Rafa Nadal after his historic 21st Grand Slam triumph.

And Novak Djokovic joined him in congratulating the Spanish legend on his ‘amazing achievement’.

Rafael Nadal fought back to win the Australian Open and claim his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer took to social media to congratulate the Spaniard

Swiss legend Federer, 40, took to his Instagram story to congratulate his long-term ‘friend and great rival’.

Nadal pulled off the most incredible comeback of his extraordinary career to beat Daniil Medvedev 2-6 6-7 6-4 6-4 7-5 in the Australian Open final.

The victory after five hours and 24 minutes on court in Melbourne saw the 35-year-old surpass Federer and Djokovic on to major No21.

It is the first time since June 2009, a whopping 13 years ago, that Fed has not been leading or co-leading the men’s Grand Slam race.

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He shared the Australian Open post of Nadal’s epic success to his 8.9million followers.

Federer wrote: “What a match!

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“To my friend and great rival, Rafael Nadal, heartfelt congratulations on becoming the first man to win 21 Grand Slam singles titles.

“A few months ago we were joking about both being on crutches. Amazing. Never underestimate a great champion.

“Your incredible work ethic, education and fighting spirit are an inspiration 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.

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“As you have done for me the past 18 years.

“I am sure you have more achievements ahead but for now enjoy this one!”

Djokovic tweeted a picture of Nadal holding the Norman Brooks Challenge Cup alongside runner-up Medvedev.

The nine-time winner – controversially deported from Australia on the eve of the tournament – wrote: “Congratulations to Rafael Nadal for 21st Grand Slam. Amazing achievement.

“Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time. Enhorabuena [Congratulations].

“Daniil Medvedev gave it his all out there and played with the passion and determination we have come to expect from him.”

Nadal won his first major in 2005, lifting the French Open aged 19.

He has battled so many injuries throughout his career and thought he may have to retire at the end of last season.

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And the 13-time Ronald Garros king missed the second half of 2021 thanks to an ongoing foot issue and had surgery to try and ease the problem in September.

But four months later he pulled off a staggering feat even the most hardcore Rafa fans could have scarcely believed.

Outplayed in the first set and unable to take his chances in the second, he appeared set to follow Federer and Djokovic in losing a final going for Slam 21.

However, the Mallorca icon, victorious at the Oz Open in 2009, simply refused to give in and completed a sensational turnaround, putting a backhand volley away to seal it at 1.11am.

Champ Nadal said: “Good morning everyone! This is one of the most emotional matches in my tennis career.

“It is amazing. Being honest, one-and-a-half months ago I didn’t know if I would be on the Tour again playing tennis. You don’t know how much I fought to be here. Now I have plenty of energy to keep going.

“I cannot explain the feelings I have right now. I will come back next year.

“Daniil is an amazing champion, I have been in your position, but I have no doubts that you will have this trophy a couple of times in your career.”

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The Spaniard let out a mighty celebration after securing the victory

His first major came way back in 2005 as a teenager at the French Open

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