The Swiss saw off his opponent 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 to claim his fifth Melbourne title, but admitted that he would have been happy with a draw if stalemates were possible in tennis.
"Tennis is a tough sport," Federer told reporters. "There are no draws. If there were I would have been happy to accept one tonight and share it with Rafa.
"Everybody says they work very hard - I do the same - but I try not to shout about it. I'd like to thank my team. It's been a different last six months. I didn't think I'd make it but here I am."
Federer, whose last major title success was Wimbledon in 2012, has now won 18 Grand Slams during his illustrious career.