The return of the king
Federer wins 18th Grand Slam after beating Nadal in Aussie Open final for the ages
AN EMOTIONAL Roger Federer wiped away tears and urged Rafa Nadal to stay with him on the tour for years to come after felling his great rival to win his fifth Australian Open yesterday.
Completing a brilliant comeback after six months out of the game, the nerve-shredding 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win gave Federer a long-awaited 18th Grand Slam title that many thought beyond the 35-year-old Swiss.
Having endured a decade of Grand Slam heartbreak against Spaniard Nadal, 17th seed Federer roared back from 3-1 down in the tense final set, riding a wave of crowd support at a heaving Rod Laver Arena, to mow through five straight games.
Federer sealed the title with a forehand winner on the second championship point but had to endure a nervous wait as Nadal challenged the line call.
The ball was good and Federer jumped in the air, with tears welling up in his eyes, having won his first Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2012.
“I’d like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback,” Federer said.
“I would have been happy to lose, too, to be honest, (my) comeback was perfect as it was.
“Tennis is a tough sport, there are no draws but if there was going to be one I would have been very happy to accept a draw tonight and share it with Rafa.”
The win snapped Federer’s sixgame losing streak to Nadal at the Grand Slams, with his last major win over the Spaniard coming at the 2007 Wimbledon final.
“Everybody says they work very hard, I do the same,” said Federer, who arrived in Australia full of doubts after coming back from a knee injury.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it here but here I am and we made it.
“Stay on the tour, keep playing Rafa, please, tennis needs you, so thanks very much for everything you do.”
Left-hander Nadal, also returning from injury this year, showed sustained periods of his best from the baseline but was just unable to stay with his rival in the gut-wrenching drama of the deciding set.
Nadal, the 2009 champion, was typically gracious.
“Congrats to Roger, just amazing the way he’s playing after so long away from the tour,” the 30-year-old said.
“It’s been a great month for me; I worked a lot to get where I am today.
“It was a great match and I think Roger probably deserved it CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: Switzerland’s Roger Federer celebrates after winning the Australian Open after beating Spain’s Rafael Nadal yesterday to claim his 18th Grand Slam title at the age of 35. a little more than me. I will keep on fighting.”
It was the Swiss who made the first breakthrough converting the first break point of the match with a forehand to go 5-4 up.
That was enough to take the opening set but Nadal was all over his opponent’s serve at the start of the second with two Federer backhands into the net giving the Spaniard a 2-0 lead.
Four big forehands gave the Swiss a break back but Nadal held firm to serve out the set and Federer needed three aces to save three break points in a 10-minute game at the start of the third.
The momentum had swung, though, and Federer stepped up a gear with some brilliant shot-making allowing him to rattle off the next two games and Nadal left scrambling to fend off a second break in a marathon fourth game.
He was unable to repeat the feat in the sixth game and Federer, his crosscourt backhand causing all sorts of problems, saved a couple of break points to secure a two sets to one lead with a drop volley.
The pendulum had not finished swinging yet, however, and Nadal broke for 3-1 in the fourth when Federer netted a backhand volley and held under unrelenting pressure in the next game with a brilliant crosscourt forehand winner at full stretch.
Nadal again closed out the set and Federer took a medical timeout before the start of the decider, returning to court only to give up his first service game.
Federer was not prepared to give up easily and put the set back on serve at 3-3 when Nadal sent a rasping forehand centimetres wide on his sixth break point.
He needed another five break points on Nadal’s next service game before the Spaniard finally cracked and Nadal was still battling away when Federer finally sealed the deal. the Titans.
Kleinveldt finished with figures of 5/45 from 18 overs and the rest of the Cobras attack supported him wonderfully keeping the Titans on the backfoot throughout.
The 38 runs needed for victory were comfortably knocked off with Stiaan van Zyl producing a highlight smashing a massive six off a disbelieving David Wiese.
The Knights’ win in Bloemfontein against the Warriors sees them assume control of the competition, but they play the Cobras next and the confidence the Cape side gained with this win will make that a bruising contest in Paarl, starting on Thursday.