No. 2 Match of the Year: Federer vs. Nadal, Australian Open

The Grandstand has compiled its list of the Top 10 Matches of the Year for 2017. Matches were ranked from a combination of Top 10 lists made by the Grandstand’s Ricky Dimon, Joey Hanf of Cliff Drysdale Tennis, voting at MensTennisForums, and Twitter user Ben Conti.

No. 2: Roger Federer d. Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, Australian Open final

In terms of historical importance, the 2017 Australian Open final was the most monumental match of the year–and it’s not even close. It is perhaps the most significant of the last decade, or more. Rafael Nadal was three games away from moving to within two of Roger Federer atop the all-time Grand Slam title list. Instead, Federer emerged three clear of his biggest rival.

It did not lack in quality, either. In fact, it was so good that Federer said during the trophy ceremony that he would have been content if it had ended in a tie–or even in a loss.

But no matter how competitive the contest, a tennis match–of course–cannot end in a draw. This one was a close as any match could be, even though it did not quite go into fifth-set marathon mode like so many recent Australian Open classics. Only nine games in the fifth set were required to wrap up the three-hour and 37-minute thriller, but it was a wild fifth set nonetheless.

Four relatively lopsided sets preceded the decider, with the two all-time greats taking turns seizing the upper hand. Federer won the first by breaking at 3-3, after which he held his next two service games with the loss of only one point. Nadal surged to 4-0 lead in the second and mostly cruised the rest of the way. Federer completely dominated the third. Nadal had no trouble responding in the fourth.

Thus the stage was set for a fifth, which did not last long enough for tennis lovers’ liking but packed an unforgettable punch in its short life span.

Although Nadal delivered the first blow, it was not enough to knock the Swiss out. Federer eventually broke back for 3-3, erasing an early 3-1 deficit. Thus began what ended up being a title-clinching streak of five consecutive games in Federer’s favor after he trailed 3-1. His second break of the set came in an mesmerizing game with Nadal serving at 3-4, which concluded with Federer forcing the Spaniard into an error thanks to a perfect cross-court forehand return.

Like Federer did earlier in the fifth, Nadal refused to go away quietly when pushed to the precipice of defeat. The lefty led 15-40 for a look at two break points, but Federer calmly erased those chances and eventually converted his second championship point with a forehand winner off the sideline that Nadal unsuccessfully challenged.

“I kept on fighting,” Federer explained. “I kept on believing–like I did all match long today–that there was a possibility I could win this match. I think that’s what made me play my best tennis at the very end.”

“I think [it was] a great match,” Nadal assured. “I enjoyed to be part of it. I fought to try to have the trophy with me. I had some chances in the fifth with (a) break up. But (it) is true that after I had the break, he played very aggressive, hitting a lot of great shots. So (it) was tough to hold the serve every time.”

Highlights:

“It remains for me the ultimate challenge to play against him,” Federer said of Nadal. “So it’s definitely very special. I said that also before the finals: if I were to win against Rafa, it would be super special and very sweet because I haven’t beaten him in a Grand Slam final for a long, long time now. Last time I guess was 2007 at Wimbledon in a five-setter. Now I was able to do it again.

“Like I said on the court, it would have been nice for both of us to win, but there’s no draws in tennis. It’s brutal sometimes.”


3 Comments on No. 2 Match of the Year: Federer vs. Nadal, Australian Open

    • Rough for the Nadal crowd sure, but many of them were still celebrating a certain victory on November 8th, previous to the AO.

  1. For Fed fans, maybe the most satisfying win ever. Still doesn’t make up for all those crushing slam losses to Nadal or the H2H, but this win and 2017 in general was a nice tonic for all of that.

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