(from http://www.australianopen.com/ )
Sunday 1 February 2009
By Matthew Clayton
Rafael Nadal has thwarted Roger Federer’s quest to equal Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles after defeating the Swiss 7-5 3-6 7-6(3) 3-6 6-2 in a breathtaking final of Australian Open 2009 on Sunday night.
Tonight’s match-up was the 19th between the pair and their seventh Grand Slam final, with Nadal now enjoying a 13-6 win-loss against his Swiss rival, including winning their last five meetings. Nadal is now 6-3 in Grand Slam finals, while Federer falls to 13-5, all five of those losses coming to the Spaniard.
In the opening set, Nadal broke Federer in the first game after the Swiss served a double fault and sprayed two backhands, but Federer broke back immediately after a marathon Nadal service game that went to deuce four times, the first two games of the match lasting 15 minutes. Both players soon settled, and the standard of tennis lifted after the early exchanges, continuing to rise as the set progressed.
Federer survived a break point in the fifth game, steadying and sealing his serve with a 180km/h ace, and the No.2 seed jumped to a 4-2 lead after breaking the Spaniard in the next game, sealing it with an enormous forehand on a Nadal second serve. Nadal produced two extraordinary passing shots in the next Federer service game to break back, the Swiss handing it to him with his second double fault of the match on break point. At 5-5, Nadal earned two break points on the Federer serve, needing only one of them to earn a critical break with a driving down-the-line forehand that gave the Spaniard his fourth game in the last five. The No.1 seed then served out the 58-minute set 7-5, making half the number of errors for the set (8-16) and capitalising on all three of his break point chances, Federer managing to convert only two of his four break point opportunities.
Federer started the second set shakily, dropping to 0-30 in his first service game before recovering to go up 1-0 with an ace that he successfully challenged using video line-calling. Nadal averted a minor blip on serve when he crunched a backhand cross-court for 1-1, but Federer earned a break point in the fourth game, Nadal saving it with his first ace of the match and then steadying to level at 2-2. The Spaniard broke in the next game for a 3-2 lead after two untimely forehand errors by the Swiss, his 19th and 20th unforced errors for the match. Nadal then served his first double fault of the match in the sixth game and dumped a forehand meekly into the net to give Federer a break point, which the Spaniard gifted him after a forehand sailed over the baseline to level the scores at 3-3.
Federer’s first serve percentage dropped to 32 per cent for the set in the next game, but he held after a couple of anxious moments for 4-3. Federer then upped the ante in the eighth game by quickly earning two break points, and after Nadal recovered to force deuce, both players squandered numerous chances to win the game before Federer finally converted on a break point chance, his second for the set in seven attempts to leap to a 5-3 lead. The Swiss then comfortably served out the set, which took 48 minutes and saw Federer hit 16 winners to Nadal’s 11 while overcoming Nadal’s 67 per cent accuracy on first serves. The No.2 seed won the final four games of the set.
Nadal went back to the locker-room at the end of the second set, and started the third with a pair of superb curling forehands to take the first game. Federer quickly leveled at 1-1 after a superb overhead. Nadal produced the shot of the match with a spectacular running forehand in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead, and despite Federer’s first serve percentage hovering dangerously in the low 40s for the set, the Swiss managed to hold for 3-3. Nadal had more unforced errors in the first six games of the third set (nine) than he had in each of the first two sets (eight in each).
Nadal received treatment from the trainer on his right thigh after the seventh game of the set, and was soon under pressure serving at 4-4 when he found himself quickly down 0-30. A Nadal forehand down the line then went wide, but the Spaniard recovered magnificently to save three break points. Federer played an exquisite backhand smash to get the game back to deuce, and a sprayed Federer forehand saw the Spaniard edge to a 5-4 lead. Nadal again sought treatment from the trainer after the ninth game as he tried to stave off the onset of cramp, and held serve in the 11th game after a mighty struggle, Federer failing to capitalise on three break point chances in the game, making him a costly 0-for-6 for the set. With a tiebreak looming, Nadal successfully challenged a line call before an errant Federer backhand handed the Spaniard a set point, the Swiss saving it with a 203km/h serve. Federer then squandered two game points before serving his second ace for the game to force a tiebreak, with the match ticking past three hours. Each player unsuccessfully challenged a call in the first six points of the tiebreaker, which saw the players change ends at 3-3. Nadal then won the next three points, the third of them with a superb running backhand volley, and a Federer double fault handed the Spaniard the set, which lasted 78 minutes. It was the No.2 seed’s only double fault for the set, one where both players made 17 unforced errors and Nadal won 52 points to Federer’s 50. After three sets, Nadal had converted four of his six break point chances, while Federer was just 4-for-17 on opportunities to break the Spaniard’s serve.
Federer held easily to open the fourth set, and had two break points on Nadal’s serve in the very next game, needing just one of them to take a 2-0 lead. A blazing forehand from the Spaniard saw him break back immediately, and after Nadal held for 2-2, the game of the match ensued. It went to deuce seven times, Federer altering his tactics and attempting to run Nadal around with numerous drop shots, and Nadal producing outrageous winners from all angles to stay alive. Federer eventually sealed a 3-2 lead when Nadal couldn’t track down Federer’s fourth drop shot of the game, with the first five games of the fourth set lasting a marathon 31 minutes.
A succession of errors from the Spaniard saw Federer break for a 4-2 advantage, with Nadal starting to appear fatigued, his punishing five-hour victory over Fernando Verdasco in the semifinals perhaps starting to take its toll. Federer held to love in the next game, and soon served out the set 6-3, the fourth frame lasting 45 minutes. Federer was 10-for-14 on net approaches in the set while hitting 15 winners to Nadal’s seven.
The fifth and final set started with Nadal holding easily, and while the Spaniard had Federer under pressure in the next game, he couldn’t capitalise with a break as the match ticked past the four-hour mark. He didn’t miss the opportunity to break Federer in his next service game, the Swiss relinquishing a 30-0 lead with a torrent of unforced errors to give Nadal a 3-1 lead. The Spaniard then held for 4-1, Federer’s unforced error count for the set ballooning to nine. The Swiss held to love in the next game, and in the crucial seventh game of the set, Nadal held his nerve, holding to love. With Federer serving to stay in the match, a double-fault handed Nadal a 0-30 lead, and a sprayed forehand handed the Spaniard two match points, the second of which Federer saved after a nail-biting rally that saw Nadal push a sliced backhand wide. Nadal then secured another match point, winning the title after Federer pushed a forehand long after four hours and 22 minutes.