There was a copious amount of nostalgia surrounding the 2017 Australian Open final, which pitted the 17th ranked Roger Federer, against 9th ranked Rafael Nadal.
The Australian Open final produced a gripping, back and forth five set match. In other words, your standard Nadal-Federer Grand Slam final.
In one of the most anticipated tennis matches in recent history, two tennis legends of the 21st century gave fans the thrill they were hoping for. It was vintage for these two; Nadal used his legs to outwork Federer, while Federer forced Nadal to run from corner to corner chasing screaming volleys. It was everything tennis fans wanted.
What was even more fitting was that Federer, 35, would wait five years to make it back to a Grand Slam final and beat his Achilles’ heel to silence critics who said he can’t be called the best ever.
Everyone who has been watching tennis since the early 2000s knows that “Rafa” and “Fed” have produced some of the most exhilarating, emotional and physical battles in tennis history. A rivalry produced at a time when tennis needed it because Roger was simply too dominant for anyone.
From 2004-2007, Federer won 11 Grand Slam titles. In fact, if you omit the French Open (which Federer has only won once), he has won 11 of the 12 Grand Slams he’s played in. It became all too predictable and everyone realized it was going to take more than the likes of Andy Roddick to dethrone the new face of tennis.
In 2005, as Federer was trying to win his first French Open, he finally met Spain’s “raging bull.”
After dropping the first set, Nadal rattled off three sets in a row to seal his first Grand Slam from the veteran.
Nadal beat Federer, but there was not much of a buzz following the victory. Federer handled him easily on any surface that wasn’t clay. Nadal was no threat to the Swiss master. Then 2007 happened.
It may have not seemed like much reading the stats, Roger Federer defeats Rafael Nadal in five sets to win his fifth straight Wimbledon title. But, for nearly everyone who watched that match they left knowing that this crazy Spaniard had more courage and fight than any opponent to ever face Federer. Nadal refused to be put away. As Federer would run him back and forth, this young kid with blazing speed would find the perfect sliding shot to slam past Federer.
For the first time in years, Federer had to work hard to get what was expected on his most dominant surface. The match would go down as one of the best of all time, only to be trumped by their rematch the following year.
In a five-hour contest that is widely considered the greatest match in tennis history, Nadal willed his way past Federer to win his first Grand Slam that wasn’t on clay. Since then, the rivalry between the two has never disappointed. It has given tennis fans some of the best shots, returns and moments they may ever see. These two men have transformed people who don’t grow up watching tennis into people who can’t wait for the next tournament to come around.
What else should fans expect from the two ironmen of the sport? Clearly two of the best in their prime, they created a stretch from 2004 to 2010 where they won 24 out of 28 Grand Slam titles.
With an ailing wrist, most counted Nadal out after he failed to reach a Grand Slam final for three years. But here we are, and Nadal, to the surprise of everyone but Nadal, has found his way back. Relying on his athleticism since his quick-ness has gone down, his fight has strengthened.
Then there is Federer, who owns the most singles titles ever with 19. Federer may not have the power and speed he once had, but he still has his pinpoint precision and iron-headed focus.
So the question arises: Will this be the last time they ever meet in a Grand Slam final?
History tells us they’re too old to win again. The experts say a new leaf is turning, but doesn’t this sound all too familiar? Weren’t they already done and washed up? Didn’t they pass the torch to Novak Djokovic? Maybe not, Nadal thinks he’s back. Federer thinks he’s back and no opponent wants to see either with any added motivation. Perhaps we’re just getting started.