Novak Djokovic hailed his victory in Melbourne last night as the greatest win of his career. "Wimbledon is right up there next to this one because it's the tournament that I always dreamed of winning, but I think this one comes out on the top – because the fact that we played almost six hours is incredible," the Serb said, after beating Rafael Nadal to win his third Australian Open and the fifth Grand Slam title of his career.
"I think it's the longest final in the history of all Grand Slams and just to hear that fact is making me cry. I'm very proud just to be part of this history, part of the elite group of players who have won this tournament several times."
After being on court for nearly six hours, Djokovic was asked what physical problems he had. "Everything you can imagine," the world No 1 said, with a smile.
Nadal, asked how he was feeling, replied with a smile: "Fine." But he added: "No, I'm tired, sure. Physically it was the toughest match I have ever played."
Djokovic said the match had drained "the last drop of energy that we had from our bodies" but Nadal said he had enjoyed the physical experience. "When you are fit, when you have a passion for the game, when you are ready to compete, you are able to suffer and enjoy the suffering. I suffered during the match, but I enjoyed all the troubles that I had. I tried to be there, to find solutions all the time. I played a lot with my heart."
Djokovic agreed. "You're in pain, you are suffering, you know that you're trying to activate your legs, you're trying to push yourself another point, just one more point, one more game," he said. "You're going through so much suffering, your toes are bleeding. Everything is just outrageous, but you're still enjoying that pain.
"We live for these matches. We work every day. We're trying to dedicate all our life to this sport to come to the situation where we play a six-hour match for a Grand Slam title."
Nadal, who hailed Djokovic as the best player in the world, said he was disappointed to lose the final but happy with the way he had performed over the fortnight, particularly after fearing that he might not be able to play after hurting his knee the day before the tournament began.
"I did a lot of very positive things, much more than for most of 2011," he said. "I played more aggressively. I hit more winners than ever. My serve worked well. The mentality and the passion were probably better than ever."
Although this was Nadal's seventh successive defeat by Djokovic in a final in the last 12 months, the Spaniard said he was pleased to have put the world No 1 under so much pressure.
"I never put him in this situation during all of 2011, so that's another positive thing for me," he said. "I didn't have mental problems today against him. In 2011 I had all these mental problems. Today I didn't have them."
He added with a smile: "I've probably never had that many positive things [to say] after I've lost."
Asked if he would watch a recording of the match, Nadal couldn't help laughing. "Too long," he said. "Highlights only."