Federer clips Nadal in epic Aussie final

January 30, 2017
Switzerland's Roger Federer celebrates after defeating Spain's Rafael Nadal during the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia yesterday.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):

So here was Roger Federer, down a break in the fifth set in a Grand Slam final. Across the net was his nemesis, Rafael Nadal, the left-handed Spaniard he hadn't been able to beat in a major final in almost a decade.

The 35-year-old father of four was back in his first tour-level tournament after six months off letting his injured left knee recover, and he hadn't won any of the big four events in tennis since Wimbledon 2012.

Nadal was returning from injury, too, and somehow the pair had renewed the Roger-Rafa rivalry in a throwback Australian Open final that transcended sport.

At that moment, an 18th Grand Slam title didn't feature in Federer's thinking.

Don't play the player, he reminded himself, just play the ball. Attack the serve.

With that, Federer recovered the break, and seized momentum in a roll of winning 10 consecutive points that helped propel him to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win late last night in Australia. His fifth Australian title extended his buffer to four atop the list of all-time Grand Slam champions. Nadal remained tied with Pete Sampras in second place with 14.

"For me it's all about the comeback, about an epic match with Rafa again," Federer said, "... that I can still do it at my age after not having won a slam for almost five years.

"That's what I see. The last problem is the slam count honestly, it doesn't matter."

Federer had lost six of the previous eight Grand Slam finals he'd played against Nadal and was 11-23 in their career meetings. His last win over Nadal in a major final was at Wimbledon in 2007.

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