Two days after Roger Federer’s historic win at the Australian Open, I am still on Cloud Nine as I relive it. Rarely does something happen that is so perfect. Consider what COULD have happened:
- It could have been a one-sided match, something that happens every now and then. Remember the 2012 Olympic final when Andy Murray beat Roger Federer in straight sets.It was unimaginable , particularly since Roger had defeated him in the Wimbledon final just a month earlier. By contrast, Sunday’s final was a pulsating affair as first one and then the other player appeared to have the advantage. Even in the fifth set, Nadal appeared to have the match in hand when he went up 3-1, only to see Federer claw back and snatch an improbable victory. What fighting spirit Nadal exhibited as he contested every point and staved off a break again and again!
- The quality of play could have been humdrum. Even when matches are close, the standard of play may not be that great. This match was remarkable for the skilled shot making, amazing court coverage and tenacity displayed by both players. The shot -of-the-match when Nadal ran down a certain winner and rifled an unplayable forehand return past Federer was unbelievable. Even Federer was moved to applaud the shot and it will be replayed by tennis fans over and over again in the months to come.
- The weather could have been a factor. At a past Australian Open, the temperature fell a whopping seventy degrees in the course of the match. When the match began, the temperature was a sweltering 110 ; at the end, it had dropped to 40 degrees. Swirling winds also had an effect on the play. I vaguely remember that Ken Rosewall was one of the players and that it happened sometime in the seventies. This time around, the weather was ideal for tennis.
- The players may not have been so likeable. Federer and Nadal are probably the two best liked players in the sport and they are good friends. This was reflected in the post match speeches at the presentation ceremony. This loss must have been a crusher for Nadal, so close was he to winning, but he was the epitome of class. He could have claimed fatigue from the almost five hour semifinal when he prevailed over Dimitrov the previous day. But he didn’t. No excuses, no whining as he congratulated Federer on his victory. Federer too felt for his opponent and was equally gracious as he accepted the cup.
- The stakes were never higher. Had Federer lost, his lead in Grand Slam titles over Nadal would have been reduced to two ( 17-15). With Nadal’s favorite tournament coming up next, the margin would most probably have been further reduced to one. Nadal would have been the odds-on favorite to eclipse Federer’s record and lay claim to be the “Greatest of All Time”… a meaningless title, but one which many fans value and argue over. With this victory, Federer’s lead in GS titles jumps to four, making it that much more difficult for Nadal to eclipse him. The race is by no means over since Nadal is only thirty and has three or so good years left in him. He could still overtake Federer if he is able to remain healthy.
- The result. No matter who won, this would have been a wonderful contest. Two all-time greats, # 1 and #2 in Grand Slams, both coming off injuries and not expected to reach the final … but they did. If Nadal had won, this would have been a great, great match but Federer’s win put it over the top. The aging lion fighting off fatigue and reaching deep down to edge his greatest rival… It was so right… so perfect.It would be unrealistic to expect that we will ever see such a match again , and certainly not between these two. Father Time can be put off only so long but thanks to DVRs and YouTube it is a match which can and will be re-played again and again. Thank you Roger ! Thank you Rafa !