Federer and Nadal set to match 2009 epic

By Dejan Kalinic 27 January 2017 95
Federer and Nadal set to match 2009 epic

It was the epic Australian Open final that ended with tears after midnight.

Rafael Nadal eventually edged past Roger Federer 7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-2 in the 2009 decider on Rod Laver Arena.

That marked their seventh meeting in a grand slam final and second most recent. A grueling baseline battle, it may be best remembered for Federer – then trying to equal Pete Sampras' record for the most major titles – breaking into tears.

After a warm arm around the shoulder from Nadal following their four-hour, 23-minute battle, Federer composed himself.

It was a final Federer should have won, even if he would go on to surpass Sampras and put a gap – at least for now – between himself and Nadal. The Swiss great's level dropped in the fifth set against Nadal, who had come into the decider having beaten Fernando Verdasco in a semi-final that lasted more than five hours.

It remains Nadal's only title in Melbourne, and was the first of his three majors won on hard-courts.

Just months on from their amazing Wimbledon final – also won by Nadal – the all-time greats delivered again.

A brutal opening set lasted 57 minutes and went the way of the Spaniard, who gave up a break advantage to lose the second. It was the third set which would prove costly for Federer, squandering six break points as he fell behind again. The incredible battle from the back of the court continued into the fourth and, while Federer would level the match once more, he fell away in the decider to eventually be beaten after midnight local time.

Nadal, aiming for major number 15 to close in on Federer's 17 on Sunday, won their only grand slam final since – at his spiritual Roland Garros home in 2011 – to make it six victories from eight in deciders against his great rival, although four of those have been at the French Open. He holds a 23-11 win-loss record over Federer, although that is a far less impressive 10-9 on non-clay surfaces.

Both making returns from injuries, this could, sadly, be the last major final between the pair. However, this meeting is set to be different to 2009.

The long baseline exchanges are unlikely to be repeated thanks to the faster courts in Melbourne, suiting Federer. He described it as "first-strike tennis" early in the tournament and has been proven right.

But there will undoubtedly be similarities. Nadal will target the Federer backhand with his top-spin forehand. Federer will attack, trying to push his 30-year-old opponent back.

And perhaps there is a guarantee – another classic between two of the greatest ever.

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Dejan Kalinic