The world number two looked destined to clinch a second Grand Slam title after his US Open breakthrough last year when he held three break points against Nadal’s serve in the third set after winning the first two at Melbourne Park.
But the never-say-die Spaniard saved them all before battling back for a famous 2-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory in a gruelling 5hr 24min to deny Medvedev and win a historic 21st Grand Slam title.
“If we talk about tennis, I’m not that disappointed. It was a huge match,” said the 25-year-old Russian.
“For sure, some small points, small details that I could have done better if I wanted to win. But that’s tennis, that’s life. Rafa played unreal, he raised his level.”
It was the second time Nadal had denied Medvedev in a Grand Slam decider, winning a five-set epic at the 2019 US Open.
“At two sets to love up I was just like, ‘go for him’,” said Medvedev, who was in his fourth Grand Slam final.
“In the fifth set I was just like ‘make him run’. But he was unreal, he was really strong the way he played.
“So talking about tennis, I don’t have much regret. I’m going to try and continue my best, work even harder to try to be a champion of some of these great tournaments one day.”
The second seed again polarised the packed Rod Laver Arena, which was firmly behind Nadal, with some sections booing him after he complained about the ball boys.
Medvedev was also unhappy about shouts from spectators as he was about to serve.
“It’s disappointing and it’s disrespectful,” he said, while bemoaning that fans often don’t get behind him when he plays one of the sports’ legends like Nadal.
“I remember there was a lot of talk like we want the young generation to go for it, to be better and I was really pumped up to really try and give them (top players) a hard time.
“Well, I guess these people were lying because every time I stepped on the court for these big matches I didn’t see many people who wanted me to win.”