MELBOURNE, Australia — Roger Federer added another honor to his superlative career, defeating hot rival Rafael Nadal, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, to win a record 18 grand slam singles title at the Australian Open on Sunday.
The Swiss fought from 3-1 down in the final set with five unanswered games to advance further into the history books.
Federer was playing his 100th match at the Open, and in his 28th Grand Slam singles final.
Victory marked his fifth trophy at the event as the 35-year-old continues to show world-class form.
Federer finished off the win in three hours, 38 minutes with a tight final game, missing with a forehand long on a first match point and finally wrapping it up as Nadal fired just wide.
Federer won his 12th match against 23 defeats in the high-profile series between a pair who both missed playing time in 2016 to heal injuries.
“I’m out of words, I don’t think either of us believed a few months ago that we would be in the finals here,” Federer said.
“I would have been happy to lose also; my comeback was going perfectly as it was. Tennis is a tough sport — I would have been happy to share the trophy with Rafa.”
Federer, who paused last summer to heal a knee injury, called the last six months “different, I was not sure I would make it here. But here we are.
“We both thought like we could, I’ve been coming here almost 20 years and I’ve always enjoyed it.
“I hope to see you next year — if not, this was wonderful and I’m happy to have won.”
Nadal was gracious in defeat: “Roger is an amazing guy, playing like this after six months away. It’s very difficult to make that happen. I’m very happy for him.
“It’s been an amazing month for me in Australia, the first time I’ve been here for so long.
“This event will always be my heart, it’s been a few great weeks for me. I worked very hard to be where I am today.
Nadal had won six of the pair’s eight previous Grand Slam finals — including Melbourne in 2009. Of the pair’s 34 previous meetings, 21 have been finals with Nadal leading that category 14-8.
Federer, with six Melbourne finals, is the second man in the Open Era to achieve that mark along with Novak Djokovic.