Spain united on Monday in celebration of Rafa Nadal’s epic comeback to beat Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final and secure a record 21st Grand Slam title.
The 35-year-old Spaniard achieved the feat on Sunday, months after fearing his glittering career might be over due to a succession of injury problems.
“When someone tells you something is impossible, think about Rafa,” the front page of sports newspaper Marca said on Monday.
Nadal moved one ahead of his long-time rivals Roger Federer and Noval Djokovic on the list of all-time men’s Grand Slam singles champions.
“The best ever,” was the headline on AS next to a photo of a smiling Nadal holding the trophy, surrounded by pictures of his other 20 Grand Slams titles.
“The biggest among the biggest,” said the front page of EL PAIS, Spain’s most popular paper, while French sports paper L’Equipe described Nadal as “The martian”.
It was a long Sunday morning for Spanish fans, with every major radio station broadcasting live commentary of his epic five-hour 24-minute battle with Russian Medvedev.
The match started around 10am local time and went on into the afternoon, with crowds gathering around TVs in bars and restaurants to watch their hero complete what he himself described as “the most improbable” triumph of his career.
“How well you represent the values of sports, Mister Rafael Nadal,” wrote Real Madrid’s Croatian midfielder Luka Modric, one of many athletes who took to social media to congratulate Nadal.
“An example of character and will. Bravo, Rafa,” said Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“My goodness, that was brutal!,” wrote former motorcycling world champion Marc Marquez. “What a heart, what a mindset, what guts, what everything, what a REFERENCE you are! I’m at your feet!”
“Those 21 titles are nothing compared to the legacy that you keep building day after day,” former basketball world champion Pau Gasol wrote about his close friend.
“I thought I have seen everything but this man keeps proving us wrong,” said an emotional former world number two Alex Corretja after Nadal clinched victory.
The King of Spain also congratulated Nadal.
“Rafa, we are running out of nice words to say. There are no obstacles for those who have no limit,” he said.