Rafael Nadal news: Roger Federer pays tribute to his ‘friend and great rival’ after Spaniard bags No 21

Rafael Nadal with the Australian Open trophy

Roger Federer has sent his congratulations to his “friend and great rival” Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard became the first man to win 21 Grand Slams.

Swiss icon Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic have shared the Grand Slam record since Wimbledon last year, but Nadal edged ahead on Sunday following an epic five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final at Melbourne Park.

It was Nadal’s second Australian Open trophy to go with his record 13 French Opens, two Wimbledon and four US Open trophies.

Federer, who like Nadal missed several months of action last year due to injury, took to Instagram to pay tribute to the 35-year-old.

Roger Federer pays tribute to Rafael Nadal on Instagram Story

“What a match 💪🏆,” he wrote. “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, dedication and fighting spirit are an inspiration to me and countless others around the world.

“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 the past 18 years. I am sure you have more achievements ahead but for now enjoy this one.”