Sunday, January 29, 2017

Federer tops Nadal in classic to end Slam drought

Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal in five sets today in the Australian
Open for his first Grand Slam title in five years. He extended his record
to 18 overall. 2015 photo by Paul Bauman
   He came to the Australian Open as a long shot.
   Roger Federer, 35, was ranked and seeded 17th and playing in his first official tournament since Wimbledon last July because of arthroscopic knee surgery. He hadn't won a Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2012.
    But Federer put on a vintage performance to pull out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over ninth-seeded Rafael Nadal today in Melbourne and extend his record to 18 major singles crowns. Nadal, 30, remains tied with Pete Sampras for second place with 14.
   The next Grand Slam tournament, the French Open beginning in late May, will mark the third anniversary of Nadal's last major title. He has been plagued by injuries and a subsequent loss of confidence. However, Nadal appears rejuvenated after hiring fellow Mallorcan and former world No. 1 Carlos Moya as his coach at the end of last year.
Nadal remains tied with Pete Sampras for second
place with 14 major singles titles. 2015 photo by
Paul Bauman
   "I don't think either of us believed we'd be in the final six months ago," Federer, who won his fifth Australian Open title and first since 2010, said during the awards ceremony. "I would have been happy to lose, too. The comeback was perfect as it was."
   It looked bleak for Federer early in the fifth set. Trailing 2-1, he had his right thigh treated. Nadal held for 3-1, but Federer reeled off five consecutive games to end the 3-hour, 38-minute classic.
   Federer fought off two break points in the final game and converted his second championship point on a cross-court forehand on the sideline set up by a strong serve down the middle.
   Nadal challenged the call, so Federer could not celebrate until the replay. When it showed his shot caught the line, Federer jumped up and down in joy, fell to his knees and burst into tears.
   Nadal had been 23-11 against Federer with five victories in their last six matches. But Federer pounded his serve, moved beautifully, ripped his formidable forehand and crushed his one-handed backhand to beat Nadal in the Australian Open for the first time in four matches, including a five-set loss in the 2009 final.
   Federer became the oldest man to win a Grand Slam singles title since 37-year-old Ken Rosewall in the 1972 Australian Open.  
   Serena Williams, also 35, defeated her sister Venus, 36, on Saturday to set the Open Era record of 23 Grand Slam singles titles. She had been tied with Steffi Graf. Margaret Court of Australia holds the all-time mark of 24.

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