It was another image of the past as the two champions, possible the greatest of the era, faced each other on the Rod Laver Arena court. The outcome was a classic of a roller-coaster match with neither player giving way and exchanging sets as they progressed inevitably to a deciding fifth.
Tennis is a tough sport and we don't have draws but if I could have shared it today with Rafa, I would have taken a draw.
There Nadal had the early advantage in what was a one set shootoutÈ to break Federer early and hold the advantage until the sixth game when the Swiss star finally succeeded in breaking back. Up to that point in three service games, the Spaniard had staved off four break points before missing with a cross-court pass on the fifth.
Back in the match, Federer raised his game, especially on serve, and continued to play aggressively to keep Nadal on the run and the pressure finally told in the ninth where another four break points were saved before the Spaniard crumbled under the power of a service return, hit on the stretch, only to hammer his own reply into the net post.
Serving for the title, Federer started nervously and in turn found himself 15-40 down before recovering to deuce with his 19th ace, a trademark inside-outÈ forehand producing his first match point. His serve was called out and while Hawkeye corrected it, the point had to be replayed it being deemed retrievable by the receiver. Again, Hawkeye was called to adjudicate on his second match point which was judged to be good, Federer danced with joy in a manner not seen ever before.
It had taken him three hours and 38-minutes to secure his 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3, his 5th Aussie title and extend his record to18 grand slam titles.
At the presentation where he received the trophy from his idol Rod RocketÈ Laver, he was complimentary of his rival and friend, stating: Tennis is a tough sport and we don’t have draws but if I could have shared it today with Rafa, I would have taken a draw.
Keep playing Rafa, please. Tennis needs you. Thank you for everything you do.
Nadal, on his part, praised Federer for his achievement. Congratulations to Roger and all his team, he said. Amazing how well he is playing after such a long time on the tour. I am very happy for him.
Federer also conceded that his age might well be against him making a return to Melbourne next year as he told the crowd: I hope to see you back here, but if not, this was a wonderful run.
He subsequently, while speaking to ESPN, qualified that statement declaring that no decision had been made but he wasnÈt getting any younger.
This is all about, you know, knowing that I have only so much tennis left in me, he added.
He then expanded: If I do get injured, you know, maybe if I miss next year. Who knows what happens. So it was just a way… You never know when your next Grand Slam is going to be, if ever. You never know if youÈre going to have an opportunity at this stage.
Yeah, I mean, look, IÈve had a tough year last year. Three five-setters are not going to help. I just meant it the way I meant it.
There wasnÈt something planned behind it, that this is my last Australian Open. I hope can I come back, of course. ThatÈs my hope right now.