November 18, 2017

An Australian Open for the Ages—and the Aged

Melbourne—A day after an all-Williams women’s final reminiscent of bygone days, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal clashed in an unexpected epic men’s final, with Federer becoming oldest male Slam winner since Ken Rosewall in 1972. The Federer–Nadal rivalry is legendary well beyond the tennis world, with the Spaniard besting the Swiss most of the time over the years, his outrageous lefty forehand doing severe damage in Federer’s one-handed backhand.

When Nadal broke Federer to open the deciding fifth set, it appeared set in stone that the patterns would hold. But Federer fought back ferociously, earning break point after break point en route to winning a classic 6–4, 3–6, 6–1, 3–6, 6–3 victory.

Neither man was expected to be contesting this final; both had missed most of 2016 with injuries. The 31 year old Nadal missed his favorite tournament, Roland Garros, with a wrist injury, and took the rest of the year off after a brief comeback. Following Wimbledon, Federer announced he was sitting out the remainder of 2016 to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery. At 35, many pegged that as his last hurrah. Instead, he has won his 18th major to pull four in front of Nadal’s total of 14, which he shares with Pete Sampras.

The 2016 draw opened up for Federer and Nadal in part due to early round exits by world #2 Novak Djokovic and world #1 Andy Murray.