High five for Fed­erer

Swiss beats Nadal in five sets at the Aus­tralian Open to claim his 18th grand slam ti­tle.

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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.

Cameron Spencer / Getty Im­ages

Wil­liam West / AFP

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.

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