Rafael Nadal : Champion

Feb 1, 2009

The final of the Australian Open – Rodger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal – finished just hours ago, and the tennis world is still revelling in its grandeur. Great finals in the Grand Slams are always expected, (particularly after the Wimbledon final 2008), and today’s Australian Open’s final certainly did its job at keeping the crowds captivated. The end result: once again Rafael Nadal has come out victorious against his greatest opponent. The match was electrifying to watch, but what more do we expect from these two rivals?

This year’s Aussie Open final was played out in five sets of intense tennis, brilliant from both sides. Both Rodger and Rafa were a little nervous at the beginning, with some mistakes made and the momentum alternating between the two of them as the games flew by. Nadal took the first set, but Federer did not relinquish it without a fight. Despite the flutters of nerves, Federer had the experience of playing in these important finals. This would no doubt give him an edge if his tennis were to stay on par with the Spaniard’s. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough for the first set, and Federer lost it 5-7.

There was little doubt in peoples’ minds that this was going to be a long match. Five set battles are the norm for these two when it comes to the finals, particularly when playing each other. Federer must have been thinking exactly the same thing; he picked himself up after the first set loss in a way that was definitive of his calm and measured nature, and won the second set comfortably. The third set went into a tiebreak, and Federer was woefully unable to convert any of the fantastic opportunities he made for himself. With Rafa needing treatment for thigh cramp, it seemed as though Federer might actually have a chance of capitalising on some of the break points he created. But that was oddly not the case, with Federer being unable to take the chances he created. Nadal went on to win the third set, the momentum swinging to his side once again.

Finding yourself a set down in a match is a terrifying prospect that nags at the back of the mind. For Federer, it looked as though that feeling was doing his game good, and he managed to pick himself up to create an electrifying fourth set. On top of this, it seemed as though Federer was beginning to break through Nadal’s game. Fatigue was starting to set in for Nadal – after all his semi-final match had been a five set battle – and Federer seemed reluctant to let him forget it.

But the fifth set was a poor affair for the world number two. Just as Federer had done before, Nadal mustered together mental and physical strength to get a lead 5-2. The errors were everywhere; so too was Federer’s game. Whatever exhaustion and desperation Federer must have been feeling, he put it aside to continue to fight to the end. But it was his own mistakes which brought Nadal to the championship points. After fending away two, Federer made his final error and sent a forehand long; the match was now finished after four hours and 23 minutes of play.

It warms and saddens the heart to watch the trophies awarded at the end of the Grand Slams, and it was no exception today. On the one hand, I was overjoyed to see Nadal win and knew that a lot of effort and sacrifice had gone in to his first win at the Australian Open. But on the other hand, you also know how much had gone into Federer’s game, and it had still not been enough. He has yet to level Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand slam titles, and it was obvious from his on-court interview how being runner-up again felt for him: “I’ve felt better. Maybe I’ll try later. God, it’s killing me.”

But Nadal had encouraging words for his friend, and you can’t help but see the truth behind them: “Just remember you are a great champion and you’re one of the best in history.”

Nadal and Federer will both go down in history as creating some of the most scintillating matches of tennis out there; matches of brilliance and fortitude that make tennis the sport that it is. Rafael Nadal goes home today as Australian Open Grand Slam Champion 2009, but we’re not even close to the end of this story, not just yet…

 

-          SophieG

 

Written by: SophieG

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