Epic! - Federer beats Nadal in classic Aussie final
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):
So here was Roger Federer, down a break in the fifth set in a Grand Slam final. Across the net was his nemesis, Rafael Nadal, the left-handed Spaniard he hadn't been able to beat in a major final in almost a decade.
The 35-year-old father of four was back in his first tour-level tournament after six months off letting his injured left knee recover, and he hadn't won any of the big four events in tennis since Wimbledon 2012. Nadal was returning from injury, too, and somehow the pair had renewed the Roger-Rafa rivalry in a throwback Australian Open final that transcended sport.
At that moment, an 18th Grand Slam title didn't feature in Federer's thinking.
Don't play the player, he reminded himself, just play the ball. Attack the serve.
With that, Federer recovered the break, and seized momentum in a roll of winning 10 consecutive points that helped propel him to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win yesterday. His fifth Australian title extended his buffer to four atop the list of all-time Grand Slam champions. Nadal remained tied with Pete Sampras in second place with 14.
"For me, it's all about the comeback, about an epic match with Rafa again," Federer said, " ... that I can still do it at my age after not having won a slam for almost five years.
"That's what I see. The last problem is the slam count - honestly, it doesn't matter."
Federer had lost six of the previous eight Grand Slam finals he'd played against Nadal and was 11-23 in their career meetings. His last win over Nadal in a major final was at Wimbledon in 2007.
"It remains for me the ultimate challenge to play against him," Federer said. "It's super sweet, because I haven't beaten him a Grand Slam final for a long time now.
"This one means a lot to me because he's caused me problems over the years."
By winning in Melbourne, where he first played in 2000 and where he kicked off his long reign at No. 1 with the title in 2004, he became the oldest man since Ken Rosewall in 1972 to win a slam.
After four sets of a final where the momentum alternately swung, the fifth had all the tension and drama that these two players are famous for.
"Congratulation to Roger ... Just amazing, the way he's playing after such a long time of him not being on the tour," Nadal said. "For sure, you have been working a lot to make that happen."
"I fight a lot these two weeks," he added. "Today, a great match, probably Roger deserved it a little bit more than me."