The biggest rivalry in tennis will once more take centre stage on Sunday when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal face off in the Australian Open final. With Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic suffering early exits from the tournament, both men took advantage their first grand slam final since 2015 for Federer and 2014 for Nadal. With a win Nadal can nudge closer to Federer’s haul of 17 slams but were the Swiss to win it seems incredibly unlikely that Nadal would manage to equal that with a four slam deficit at the age of 30. Check out the Federer vs Nadal Head to Head.
Down 3-4 15-40 in the final set, Nadal found himself in big danger in his semi final but reeled off 4 outstanding points to hold on his way to taking the last 3 games of his 6-3 5-7 7-6 6-7 6-4 victory over Grigor Dimitrov. Not that they needed it but it reminded everyone why he is one of the toughest competitors in all sport, never mind just tennis. Meanwhile, Federer also needed five sets to make it to the final. The 3 hours and 4 minutes it took for Federer to secure his place with a 7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3 win over Wawrinka is a fair bit shorter than the 4hr56m length of Nadal’s final but the lengthy resting period should still ensure that fitness doesn’t become a factor.
Federer did take a medical time out at the beginning of the fifth set but indicated that it was just as much strategic as attending to a problem that was going to cause him trouble beyond the day of the match. “I only really did take the timeout because I thought, He took one already, maybe I can take one for a change, because I’m not a believer in any way that we should be allowed to take a lot of timeouts.” he said.
The rivalry was famous for the epic encounters of the late 00s, most notably the Wimbledon finals of 07 and 08 while the Australian Open in 2009 also went five. That was Nadal’s only Australian Open title and the last time these two met in a slam final. “It is special to play with Roger again in a final of a Grand Slam. I cannot lie. Is great. It’s exciting for me and for both of us that we still there and we still fighting for important events.” Nadal said.
The matchup has always favoured the Spaniard, whose game is perfectly equipped to nullify the danger of Federer’s backhand. Even as both move into the back end of their career, Nadal has controlled the matchup with 5 wins in the last 6 although they have played just twice since the start of 2014 prior to this match. The faster court could play into Federer’s hands but whether it is enough to outlast Nadal should he fall behind early is in question.
Rafael Nadal in four sets