2017 Australian Open Final
It’s been a historic tournament already. We have four wily veterans thought to be past their prime in the men’s and women’s finals, three of them 35 years and older. We already had a victory for Serena Williams which saw her surpass Steffi Graf with most Open Era Grand Slams, and today we had the men’s 2017 Australian Open final.
Federer Vs Nadal.
If Federer won, he would extend his own record of most men’s Grand Slam titles to 18. Such a victory would extend the gap between himself and Nadal to four, and make catching him unlikely. If Nadal won, however, he would close the gap to two, and surpass Pete Sampras on that list taking his place as outright number two. If that were to happen, and with a few more French Opens realistically within his reach, Nadal could very possibly catch up to Federer’s record.
The 2017 Australian Open final is not their first rodeo together. In 34 meetings between the pair, eight of them have been in Grand Slam finals. Nadal has the overwhelming advantage in the history books. He has won six of those eight meetings (and 22 of the 34 total meetings).
Only one of those finals was here at the Australian Open, back in 2009. Nadal triumphed in five sets back then. In fact, Federer has only ever been able to defeat Nadal in a Slam final on the grass of Wimbledon. On the slower hard courts (and much slower) clay courts, Nadal has the advantage.
This year, however, many players have been commenting about how the Australian Open courts and balls are flying much faster than normal. This might explain why Federer has been able to close many matches out relatively quickly, while Nadal has had a number of grinding, lengthy matches. It could also explain why the world number one and two—Murray and Djokovic—unexpectedly went out early.
As you might expect, the tennis was at a very high quality from the first ball. Possibly unexpectedly, the match was largely even and without incident. The momentum swung quite with remarkable regularity between the pair. Federer took the first set with a single break of serve. Nadal took the second set with two breaks of serve (though he gave one up). Federer took the third set more decisively with two breaks, and it looked like the Swiss might be on the ascension. Nadal isnt nicknamed the Spanish Bull for naught, however, and he came back to take the fourth set 6—3 to force a fifth set decider.
How could this have gone any other way?
Nadal came out strong in the first game, breaking Federer to take the early advantage. He faced a lot of pressure on his own serve in the second game, but was able to keep his cool and hold. Things settled down a bit after that with a comfortable hold to love for Federer. There was more pressure on the Nadal serve in the fifth game, the Spaniard having to save a break point at 30—40. Save it he did, but he soon found himself break point down again at deuce, and this time he wasn’t able to save it when an inside out forehand went just wide of the mark.
Back on Serve
With the finish line of the 2017 Australian Open final approaching, the crowd were in fine voice for Federer’s next service game, and he obliged with a quick and comfortable hold to love, the crowd roaring their appreciation at every point. It seemed the momentum and shifted yet again. This was backed up by a tentative service game from Nadal in which a double fault brought Federer three break points at 0—40. Nadal saved the first of them with a driving forehand that Federer was only just able to get the frame of his racquet to. The second was saved when Federer’s return went long. The third was saved after Federer miscued a backhand return high and wide, and we were at deuce.
What followed was a 26 shot rally—the longest of the match—which Federer was able to win with a sublime backhand down the line after some great play by both players. Nadal responded with another un-returnable serve, but Federer made it break point number five with more superb tennis, pushing Nadal around the court. This one he converted, and at 5—3, Federer would serve for the set, the match, and the Australian Open title.
Nadal wasn’t going to go down without a fight, however. Some powerful baseline play brought the game to 0—30. A Federer ace pegged the onslaught back a little. But a thunderous shot that Federer could only return high was volleyed back with such force that Nadal nearly fell over the net! Federer came up with another ace to make it 30—40. Then a brilliant inside-out forehand to bring us to deuce. One un-returnable serve later and we had our first championship point.
The nerves must have been getting to everyone as Federer’s first serve was out. His second serve hit most of the line but was inexplicably called out. Federer rightfully challenged but went on to lose the point with a forehand long. Another ace brought up the second championship point… which Federer converter with a forehand on the line!
Nadal would challenge the call but Hawk Eye showed it was well on the line.
Federer’s celebration was a joy to behold. It was not the celebration of a 35 year old veteran who has won it all; it was the celebration of an excited youngster who can’t believe he gets to play on the big court, let along win the match. Federer’s passion and love for the game is a beautiful thing.
And, while we may not get much more of this, it’s reasonable to believe that if he can win the Australian Open this year, he has a real chance of winning Wimbledon also. The clock might be ticking, but it’s not stopping yet!
The 2017 Australian Open final will be a hard pill to swallow for Rafael Nadal. He was just as deserving as Federer right up until the final few games of the match. Nadal is five years Federer’s junior, so it is reasonable to assume that he might have more chances left. However his game is more physical—as shown by his numerous injuries.
The French Open is fast approaching, however. And while Nadal is playing, he can’t be discounted as a threat at Roland Garros.
2017 just got more exciting. We have, it seems, a fully fit, fully active Big Four (plus Stan Wawrinka). We have a handful of younger players who look ready to challenge. Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov look especially dangerous.
I can’t wait!