Shots like that are worth the price of admission alone. Commentator, Cliff Drysdale, on a Federer backhand cross-court winner.
The dream match up
By Roger Childs
It was the 9th seed against the 17th, who just happen to be two of the greatest players of all time.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer had come back from injury to play in the Australian Open, and neither was expected to make the final.
However, the higher seeds dropped like flies and top favourites, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, were out before the quarter finals.
It is a golden age in men’s tennis, and Nadal and Federer were made to work hard in their five set semi-finals. However, through they went, to the delight of the crowds and the organisers. But would the final live up to expectations? It exceeded them!
The legends meet again
Rafa and Roger have fought many epic battles in the past. Back in 2008 they contested a five set, five hour thriller at Wimbledon which most experts regard as the greatest match ever. A book was written about it with the appropriate title Strokes of Genius.
Eight years later, the Spaniard and the Swiss would have another epic struggle at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Both are superb players and had been in great form in the earlier rounds.
Because they have contrasting styles, their match-ups are all the more interesting.
Rafael Nadal is the more cautious player, and tends to be a baseline slugger. However his overhead and volleying are very efficient when required. He doesn’t have a thunderbolt serve, but uses spin and placement to great effect. His ground strokes are excellent and he is the master of passing shots and cross-court winners, which often come from his powerful two handed backhand.
On the other hand, Roger Federer is a risk taker, and a serve and volley specialist. Unlike Rafa, he is a right hander, and has a powerful single handed back hand. He also plays shots that few others attempt, such as baseline half volleys and mid-court volleys, often with deadly effect.
Between them Federer and Nadal had won 31 grand slams with another one begging..
The Swiss maestro played impeccable tennis in the first set which he took 6-4. Rafa was equally impressive in the second, where he jumped out to a 4-0 lead before winning 6-3. The two legends were playing high quality tennis with powerful strokes deep to the baseline, excellent placements in the corners and tightly angled cross-court winners.
Federer was back to his best in the third set, winning 6-1. His superiority showed up in his number of winners: 18 to 4, and aces: 6 to 1. But at times, he would try too much and his unforced errors count was 13 to Nadal’s 6.
The Spaniard dominated the fourth set with more consistent play and a number of scorching cross-court winners. So, at two sets all it was all on in the decider.
Nadal broke Federer’s service in the first game and at 2-0, seemed to have the match sewn up. But the Swiss won 5 of the next 6 games with superb serving, deadly volleys and aggressive cross-court backhand winners.
So it was Federer serving for the match at 5-3. He was 15-40 down in this final game, but came through to take the championship and an 18th grand slam: 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
It was a very close encounter, and a thriller for the crowd who frequently jumped to their feet to applaud the quality of the rallies and winners. Roger Federer commented afterwards that if drawn games were allowed he would have taken it!
He also said:
Rafa definitely has been very particular in my career. I think he made me a better player… The way his game stacks up with me, it’s a tricky one. I’ve said that openly. It remains for me the ultimate challenge to play against him. So it’s definitely very special.
Rafael Nadal remarked:
I enjoy being part of it. I fought to try to have the trophy with me. I had some chances in the fifth with a break up but it is true that after I had the break, he (Roger) played very aggressively, hitting a lot of great shots. So it was tough to hold the serve every time.
He is looking forward to what will hopefully be an injury free and successful 2017.
The only goal for me is keep going. I believe that if I have my body in the right condition, I can have a great year because I feel that I am playing well.
Rafa has certainly started well, being part of one of the best and most exciting Australian Open singles finals in history.