Roger Federer won his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open as he continues to cement his place in history as one of the best, if not the best, tennis player of all time. Facing off against Rafael Nadal on Sunday, the thrilling match went down to the wire in a five-set confrontation, which lasted for over three and a half hours. The Swiss won three sets in the best-of-five to claim his fifth Melbourne title and extend his lead at the top of the all-time men’s major winners’ list.
It’s one of tennis’ greatest rivalries, as Nadal also finds himself among the sport’s best. He’s actually had Federer’s number throughout both players’ careers, with an overall record of 23-12. Roger Federer feels that this win against the Spanish tennis player was extra special, as he had not been victorious against him in a Grand Slam final since the 2007 Wimbledon championships. This victory was a long time coming for Federer, a wait of 10 years.
“It remains for me the ultimate challenge to play against him. It’s super sweet because I haven’t beaten him a Grand Slam final for a long time now. This one means a lot to me because he’s caused me problems over the years.”
The game would have many similarities to the 2008 Wimbledon finals between these two legends regarding the game’s sheer intensity, suspense, and theater. Federer and Nadal took turns winning sets as each displayed determination, zest, and their undeniable skill, as both made several plays when it seemed like they would be impossible to make. It was the player who got the better start who ultimately took away the championship.
The first set went to Roger Federer, winning 93 percent of his points via his first serve. He caught Nadal outpaced and off the wrong foot. Nadal bounced back in the second set on the strength of his forehands. Federer retrieved his advantage over his opponent in the third set, earning his points from an aggressive push. In the fourth set, Nadal’s energy and endurance got him the lead, winning the set through the power of his forehand once again. The fifth set was the deciding one, and its story was indicative of the Roger Federer story surrounding this game.
“For me, it’s all about the comeback, about an epic match with Rafa again,” Federer said, “that I can still do it at my age after not having won a slam for almost five years.”
Federer was down 3-1 in the final set but made a comeback to tie things up. It went down to the wire, as Roger Federer went to continue his momentum while Nadal clawed his way back to maintain the tight margin. The decision was so close that on the second match point, Nadal challenged the decision on the last shot, but replays showed that the ball landed on the right side of the line, giving Roger Federer the victory.
Both athletes acknowledged how close this game was, and the two longtime rivals talked about the respect they have for each other. “There are no draws. If there were, I would have been happy to accept one tonight and share it with Rafa,” an exhausted Roger Federer said after the victory.
“Congrats to Roger,” said Nadal. “It’s amazing how he is playing without being on the tour. It has been a great month for me, I really enjoyed it.”
It was also an impressive comeback story for Roger Federer, as he was coming back from a severe knee injury that lasted six months. The injury didn’t help him in the standings, as Federer slipped to 17th place in the ATP tennis rankings, surpassed by some of the game’s younger superstars.
The victory came with even more difficulty as Federer needed medical attention as his aging muscles tightened up on him. Roger was able to not only overcome the player on the other side of the court, but the obstacles coming from his side as well.
At 35 years of age, Roger Federer is cementing his place not only as the best tennis player of all time but one of history’s most accomplished athletes. Nadal may be ranked ninth while Federer is 17th, but when it comes down to the biggest stage, few rarely do better than these two.
[Featured Image by Kin Cheung/AP Images]