Roger Federer finally won his 18th and record breaking Grand Slam title on Sunday night in the jam-packed Rod Laver arena against his great rival Rafael Nadal, winning an epic five setter 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in three hours and 37 minutes in an electric atmosphere on Rod Laver Arena, rallying from a break down in the fifth set to win the last five games. Federer, who hasn’t played since his semi-final defeat in Wimbledon last year revelled in what surely must be the sweetest of his Grand Slam victories. Federer revelled in the moment, with tears of joy flowing freely after a Hawkeye review ruled his forehand winner on match point to have caught the line.
“I’m out of words,” said Federer, after receiving the trophy from Rod Laver. “I’d like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback. There are no draws in tennis, but I would have been very happy to accept one and share it with Rafa tonight. The comeback had been perfect as it was,” said the Swiss, who was playing his first tour-level event after a six-month injury lay-off.
It was Federer’s aggressive play which proved decisive in the final. In the modern game, as proven by the likes of Djokovic and Murray, the baseline game is king with serve-volley being an almost forgotten tactic. However, despite winning only 44.6% of baseline points Federer won an incredible 73% of points at the net. Further proof of Federer’s aggressive style is that Nadal, who is widely acknowledged as being far superior in longer rallies than practically every other player on tour, lost out in all short, medium and long rallies to the swiss maestro.
Rally Length Won / Lost
0-4 Shots Federer 95 / Nadal 89 (+6)
5-8 Shots Federer 37 / Nadal 34 (+3)
9+ Shots Federer 18 / Nadal 16 (+2)
It was this aggressive play which allowed Federer to defeat Nadal in a Grand Slam final for just the third time in nine contests, having lost all three of his previous battles with Nadal in Melbourne, including the heartbreaker in 2009. It was also the first-time Federer had defeated his great rival in a major since 2007. But Federer righted those wrongs with a sublime display on Rod Laver Arena, marking his 100th match at the Australian Open in style.
The occasion was even more remarkable given that it was Federer and Nadal who faced off across the net in another Grand Slam final and their 35th battle overall. Both had come through gruelling five setters in their semi-finals. Federer defeating his compatriot and US open Champ Stan Wawrinka and Nadal beating next gen star Grigor Dimitrov and given how both recalled the story of how both were unable to play even an exhibition match at the opening of Nadal’s academy in Manacor last October, having to make do instead with sponge balls against junior players. However sheer will, dedication and hard work say both rise to the occasion and rediscover their best level, to take advantage of early exits by Murray and Djokovic and to create a nostalgic final for tennis fans all around the world.
Indeed, it was only the fifth occasion in the Open Era that a Grand Slam final has been contested by a pair of 30-somethings. The last time it happened was at the 2002 US Open, when 31-year-old Pete Sampras defeated 32-year-old Andre Agassi to win the title in what would be his final ever match.At 35 years and 174 days, Federer is the oldest Grand Slam champion since Ken Rosewall, who won three major titles in 1970 and ’71 after celebrating his 35th birthday. But it must have seemed a long way off for the Basel native last July, when he was forced to announce that he would be missing the remainder of the 2016 season in order to fully repair his body after undergoing arthroscopic left knee surgery in February.
He is the third man in history to win five Australian Open titles, adding to his victories in 2004 (d. Safin), 2006 (d. Baghdatis), 2007 (d. Gonzalez) and 2010 (d. Murray). At No. 17 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, he is the lowest ranked Australian Open champion since No. 18 Thomas Johansson won the title in 2002. But the Swiss right-hander, who spent 302 weeks atop the rankings, is now set to return to the Top 10 at No. 10 on Monday.