Rafael Nadal nearly pulled off the win of his career, but couldn’t close the door on rival Roger Federer in the final today at the Australian Open 6-4. 3-6. 6-1. 3-6. 6-3.
Nadal led Federer 3-1 in the fifth set with chances to go up 4-2. But Federer seized the moment and won the last five games to win the 3-hour, 38-minute rollercoaster.
It was Nadal’s first loss to Federer in a Grand Slam in over nine years since the 2007 Wimbledon final. And he let go a chance to win his 15 Slam and a second Career Slam which many said would have vaulted him over the Swiss in the GOAT discussion.
Afterward, a gracious Nadal met the press.
Q. How do you feel physically?
RAFAEL NADAL: Good. Little bit tired obviously. But good.
Q. And your emotions?
RAFAEL NADAL: Good, no? I think have been a great match. I enjoy to be part of it. I fight to try to have the trophy with me. I had some chances in the fifth with break up.
But is true that after I had the break, he played very aggressive, hitting a lot of great shots. So was tough to hold the serve every time, no?
I had the chance to keep holding the serve. If I hold that one, you never know. You are two games, just two games away. But I didn’t, so…
Well, that’s it, no? I believe that he played super aggressive during the whole match. Tough chances to play the way I wanted to play. But still like this, I played, I think, with the right attitude, trying to do my things, fighting for every ball.
Is true that probably remain a little bit of speed today compared to the last day in my legs probably, little bit. But that’s normal after what happened one day and a half ago.
Like this I think I tried. I didn’t play bad. But is true was difficult to play a lot because he really went for the shots, almost for every shots.
Q. Where would you rank that amongst the many matches you’ve played against him over the years?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I don’t know now. I just feel that have been a good match, five-sets match, in a very special final for the fans and for us. Is great to play against him again after couple of years without make that happen in a big final.
But that’s it. I cannot rank this final now.
Q. Personally for yourself, what did it mean to be back out there in a Grand Slam final? It’s been a few years. Can you describe how you feel about it all.
RAFAEL NADAL: I feel happy. I played a great quality of tennis during the whole month that I have been playing. That’s a great news for me.
The only goal for me is keep going. I believe that if I have my body in the right conditions, I can have a great year because I feel that I am playing well.
Q. Do you think you didn’t recover as well as you wanted from the semifinal? Did that play a part today?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I recovered well. After five hours, is not easy to recover the way that I did. I feel that I was enough recovered.
As I say before, just remain little bit of speed in moments. That’s something normal. For the rest of the things, I happy the way I recovered.
Q. What did you feel about him taking that medical timeout? Second match in succession that he had quite a long break after the fourth set. The momentum was with you.
RAFAEL NADAL: No opinion about that. I don’t know what’s going on.
Q. Where do you think it turned in the fifth set when you were a break up? Did you feel something started not to switch on your side?
RAFAEL NADAL: The only negative thing is in the fifth, after having the break, I didn’t win no one serve not easy. All the serves that I did, I suffered a lot. I served breakpoints. Even if I played great in the breakpoints, I was suffering a lot, no?
He probably remained a little bit more free points with my serve. That’s what I needed in that moment, and I didn’t had.
Then the way that he played, he can put the balls in or not. And he put a lot of balls in, taking a lot of risks, and taking the ball very early, playing very fast. So then he had the success. Well done for him.
Q. Could this be a platform for you for the rest of the season?
RAFAEL NADAL: I cannot predict what’s going on in the future. That’s always the same thing. I just think that I am playing well. I just think that I worked hard to be where I am. I believe that playing like this, good things can happen. Can happen here in this surface, but especially can happen on clay.
If I am able to play like this, to hold matches like I hold the other day, and recover well as I recovered, but on clay I recovered better than here, then the opponents don’t get that many free points, and I am playing from the solid baseline.
If I made that happen, I think I can keep having success in hard courts, but on clay can be special.
Q. In terms of your fitness and your form, is this as good as you felt in January for many, many years?
RAFAEL NADAL: Not many, many years. In 2014 I played the final here. I have been playing great. I feel good physically. I had the problem in the back in the final. That’s all.
I feel good. Being honest, last year I felt myself great coming here, not that well like this year. I felt great. But I lost in the first round. So when that happened, is difficult to explain to you that I feel well. Being honest, that’s the true, no?
But you always need little bit of luck. This year I won important match against Zverev in the third round. That’s important. I won great matches against great players. I competed well against everybody. That’s the most important thing for me. That makes me feel happy.
Of course, winning an event like this is so important. For me, if I won that one, will be amazing. But the real thing is what makes me more happy, more than the titles, is go on the court and feel that I can enjoy the sport.
Today I am enjoying the sport. Last year I only had the chance to enjoy the sport between Indian Wells and Madrid, because in Madrid I got injury in quarterfinals. That’s the real feeling.
At this moment in my career, more than titles, for sure if I am playing here, I believe that I going to win titles. More than all these kind of things is being health enough to work the way I need to work, to fight for the things I want to fight. I’m going to keep trying to do and to work the same way.
Q. How important was it to win some of those really tight matches you had along the way for confidence going forward?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, very important. I said before the tournament start, I felt that I was practicing great. Then you need to do it on the matches, and I did.
I am with big personal satisfaction. I cannot say that I am sad. I wanted to win, yes, but I am not very sad. I did all the things that I could. I worked a lot during all these months. I keep working, and I competed well.
I enjoyed the competition. I won against the best players of the world, and I competed well against everybody. That’s the most important thing for me, and that give me confidence to keep playing, and that’s what I going to try.
Q. You were playing for your 15th title, he was playing for his 18th. Did that weigh on both of your minds, at least in the first set?
RAFAEL NADAL: At the end of the day is another title. There is a winner, there is a loser. In these kind of matches, anyone can win. Being honest, in these kind of matches, I won a lot of times against him. Today he beat me. Just congratulate him. Is not more than another important title for him, another important two weeks for me. Even if didn’t finish the way that I wanted, have been an important two weeks for me.
The only thing that I can do is congratulate him and go back home with very positive feelings for me.
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