High five for Federer
Swiss beats Nadal in five sets at the Australian Open to claim his 18th grand slam title.
MELBOURNE // An emotional Roger Federer wiped away tears and urged Rafael 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.
Federer was presented with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup by Australian great Rod Laver, sharing an embrace with the 11time grand slam champion.
“I’d like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback,” Federer said at the trophy ceremony. “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.
It made Federer the first player to win five titles at three different grand slams and at 35, the oldest grand slam winner since Ken Rosewall won the 1972 Australian Open age 37.
“Everybody says they work very hard, I do the same,” said Federer, who arrived in Australia full of doubts after 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.”
Nadal, the 2009 champion, was typically gracious after losing his third Melbourne final and coming up short in his bid for a 15th grand slam title.
“Congrats to Roger, just amazing the way he’s playing after so long away from the tour,” he 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 a little more than me. I will keep on fighting.”
Federer made the slower start with Nadal drawing him into lengthy rallies and targeting his backhand.
It was the Swiss who made the first breakthrough, though, converting the first break point of the match with a forehand winner 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.
Federer had two break points in the next game but Nadal fought them off and then broke again as his rival struggled for accuracy under the Spanish onslaught.
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 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 cross court 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 put the set back on serve at 3-3 when Nadal sent a rasping forehand wide on his sixth break point. He needed another five break points on Nadal’s next service game before the Spaniard finally cracked and Federer finally sealed the deal.
Switzerland’s Roger Federer hits a return against Spain’s Rafael Nadal during their men’s singles final match at the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday.