What can you say? It’s Rafael Nadal’s world. If you don’t like it, get used to it. After tonight, the baton has officially been passed. Roger Federer was the king, Rafael Nadal is the new king. It’s that simple, that clear. Nadal gave a superhuman mental and physical effort in beating Roger Federer earlier today 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 to capture his first career hardcourt major at the Australian Open.
The 4-hour, 23-minute match wasn’t quite at the level of their memorable Wimbledon epic last July, but this result was just as stunning in the way Nadal overcame fatigue and a worthy Federer to prove that he is the best player in the world and that he owns Roger.
Federer actually handled much of Rafa’s best for most of the night, but the Swiss could hardly get out of the way of his own serve, and then he completely collapsed in the fifth set when Rafa was able to score two error-filled breaks and salt away the match.
As the commentators pointed out, despite his early set lead Nadal did look rather weary and listless, and things appeared bleak for the Spaniard once Federer level for one-set all and had Nadal on the ropes at 0-40 late in the third. But Nadal absolutely never wavered. He never went away when he could have done so easily without a second blink or a raised eyebrow. Instead, he soldiered on never losing sight of the end goal: Winning the title. And for that he deserves all the credit in the world and he deserves this win.
Without going too deep into the future, I wrote some time ago that while everyone was looking at Federer as the greatest, maybe it will be Rafa who ultimately wears that crown. Starting to look more plausible doesn’t it?
Already at 22 he’s accumulated six Slams titles on three different surfaces, an Olympic gold and a Davis Cup win. Besides the US Open there’s nothing else out there, is there? Amazing.
For Federer, this match really does change things. First, Nadal is absolutely 100% in his head and it’s going to be tough for Roger in future meetings. This one hurts. Further, how can he recover from this second crushing five-set defeat in a Slam final? And I’d have to characterize this one as worse than Wimbledon where Rafa really owned Roger in the first two sets before Fed made a spirited comeback.
Today Roger looked to be in control but at critical moments on break points he simply couldn’t come up with the goods he needed. And at the end we saw that emotion following the match. It has to be nothing short of devastating for Federer.
I still think Roger will pass Pete, but even when he does it may still be hard to look at Roger in terms of the greatest when he really is second to Rafa right now.
What a change of events. Even though I picked the other guy, I’m glad I woke up early to see it happen. Can this rivalry get any better? Vamos…
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