By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Roger Federer [17] def. Rafael Nadal [9] 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3
  • Claims 18th Slam title, fifth Australian Open title
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Incredibly, perhaps even improbably Roger Federer came back from a six month lay-off to win the Australian Open.

 

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Roger Federer [17] def. Rafael Nadal [9] 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3

It was a final few thought they would ever see again. It was perhaps the most improbable final when the draw was made two and a half weeks ago. We would even hesitate to saw it was a throwback final, because that would almost suggest they were past it.

In the run up to the final, the edge seemed to be with Rafael Nadal. Curious as they had played the same number of sets, both gone through gruelling five-setters, but somehow, given the brutality of shot from the Spaniard it seemed that he might feel the effects first.

Then again there was the intrigue of ‘the leg’ – Roger Federer had gone for three private training sessions with no public and no press.

It was Federer that started the brighter – he took advantage of a single break point chance in the first set to grab the lead, and wrapping up the first set in 35 minutes.

Nadal took the initiative at the start of the second set – breaking a suddenly lacklustre Federer, whose forehand had gone walkabout for a spell. He regained a bit more control over the wayward wand to get one of the breaks back but Nadal stormed through his final service game to level the match.

It was almost a mirror image start to the third set, this time with Federer striking out early and building up a 4-1 lead as Nadal looked increasingly nervy and off-balance. He made Federer earn the second set point to take the 2-1 lead.

Nadal started the fourth set looking as though his movement had slowed down, as he managed to hold on to his serve and something seemed to kick in for him. Some choice errors by Federer and quick as a blink, Nadal had broken.

One of the rallies of the tournament drew applause from Federer as the set ran away rapidly from him.


Federer managed to hold on to force Nadal to serve it out, perhaps in the hope that serving first in the decider would give him an advantage. With a delay while Federer took a Medical Time Out, any hopes that momentum would shift back went out of the window as Nadal broke straight away.

Seemingly from nowhere, as the break points chances started to mount for both of them, from nowhere Federer picked up the pace, finally converting on his sixth break point opportunity in this set, twisting the knife with another break before finally closing out the championships on his second championship point, somewhat bizarrely decided on a challenge.

Nadal said in his on-court speech: “It was a great match, perhaps maybe Roger deserved it a bit more than me. I’m just gonna keep trying.”

The praise was equally forthcoming from the newly minted 18-time Grand Slam champion: “Tennis is a tough sport, there’s no draws but if there was I’d be happy to share it with Rafa tonight.”

We will leave the hyperbole to others. It was a five setter, but perhaps not an epic. But it mixes things up nicely as we head first into the hard court spring, and then the clay court season. Now who would count out Nadal to reach Il Decimo and for Federer to challenge once more at Wimbledon?

 

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