At the semi final stage, Michael Hale picks the classic encounter between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco.
Rafael Nadal vs. Fernando Verdasco (semi final, 2009)
6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4
The start of the 2009 season found Rafael Nadal in expansive mood. The previous year the Spaniard had finally overhauled Roger Federer in the rankings after spending a record 160 consecutive weeks at number two, due largely to his triumph in the 2008 Wimbledon final. The win in SW19 had been his first grand slam title away from the clay of Roland Garros and now Nadal, who had just ditched his sleeveless shirts and clam diggers in favour of more conventional attire, was aiming to invade Federer’s hard court empire.
With Federer already waiting in the final, Nadal took to the Rod Laver Arena against compatriot Fernando Verdasco. At that stage of his career, Verdasco was best known as a dangerous but underachieving player. However the man from Madrid had worked exceptionally hard during the off-season, with help from Darren Cahill, and was in the best shape of his life.
An amazing match ensued with Verdasco going a set up via a tiebreak before Nadal came back to lead 2-1. In the fourth set tiebreak Verdasco took flight to the tennis stratosphere, blowing Nadal off court in a 7-1 rout, and sent the contest into a fifth and deciding set. Ultimately Nadal held firm and Verdasco agonisingly double faulted to end the match after five hours and fourteen minutes.
The clip above is of one of the most heralded shots from the match; Nadal bending the ball over the net post for a stunning winner after a lengthy rally. Below is the first part of a two part highlight reel.