Sunday 25 March 2018 / 03:05 AM


Sunday night’s men’s final at the Australian Open saw the two best players of the modern era, and probably of all time, go toe-to-toe in a showdown for the ages. Two ageing gladiators in one last epic battle in the Rod Laver Arena colosseum.

In the end of a see-sawing five-set thriller Roger Federer was able to overcome his great rival, and nemesis, Rafael Nadal to claim his 18th Grand Slam title. It had been five years since he won title number 17 and many believed this day would never come.

That either of these two legends even made the final in an extremely competitive field was remarkable in itself. The 35-year-old Swiss maestro was returning to the tour after six months out with a knee injury and it was believed we’d seen the best, if not the last, of the world’s best-ever player.

Nadal, the Spanish bull, was himself on the comeback trail after battling a wrist injury, amongst many other injuries over the last few years. The 30-year-old southpaw’s physical game style seemed to have finally caught up with him and his last Grand Slam title had come at Roland Garros in 2014. However, the clay court legend was back in top form Down Under and his battle against his archrival made for a wonderful finale to a fairytale tournament. Unfortunately for Rafa, the happy ending belonged to the Swiss.

Most will agree that Federer is the greatest player of all time, but the one knock on him, the one minor blip in his otherwise impeccable career is his head-to-head record against arguably the second-best player ever – Nadal. Before Sunday night the scoreline read 23-11 to Nadal, and 9-2 in Grand Slams.

Federer has always struggled against Nadal’s topspin-heavy ground strokes as well as his brute power. Nadal managed what few have – a way to turn Federer’s backhand weapon into a weakness, and after many tough losses Federer even admitted to some mental scarring from his encounters with the left-hander.

But it was the Swiss who claimed victory 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 in a highly anticipated final that saw some astonishing strokes and absorbing rallies. Finally, he was able to defeat the man who has thwarted him so many times. Winning the final might only go a little way to squaring the ledger for Federer, but even this slight bit of redemption is his greatest triumph.

One victory over Nadal might not balance the head-to-head scoreline, but when Nadal’s challenge on the last point proved to be incorrect, it sealed Federer’s biggest and most important victory. Coming back from injury, at his age, after so long without winning a major, he overcame all the odds and his toughest opponent to claim Grand Slam title number 18 – with his greatest-ever win.

Just when it seemed their stars were fading into the distance, Federer and Nadal gave us fans one more grand performance, one more exhilarating final, and this time it was to be Federer’s crowning glory in a glittering career full of triumphs and monumental victories.

Watching the two old rivals slug it out one more time evoked a sense of nostalgia, and a sense of witnessing true greatness. Some fans and viewers did not feel worthy to be in the presence of these two greatest of champions, but we are all lucky to have witnessed the greatest of all time, in his greatest moment.

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About the author

Akash Fotedar

Akash is a Perth-based sportswriter and journalist who has come on board with Commentary Box Sports to provide expert cricket, AFL and tennis coverage. An experienced cricketer, Akash has played three seasons in England as an overseas pro and is still active in grade cricket in WA.

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