The first four sets were just a delicious entree.
Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 to defy the odds, to defy all expectations, to defy father time. Federer defiantly fought the forces of what was expected of him just 14 days ago – which wasn't a lot.
The match essentially got busy with Nadal serving at 3-4 in the fifth set. There were so many amazing moments that led up to this point in time, but this is where the rubber really met the road.
Nadal made a forehand error followed by another forehand error, followed by a double fault to fall behind 0-40. It was a hole that Nadal temporarily climbed out of to get back to deuce. Once a hole is dug, it’s quite easy to fall back into.
At deuce, Federer defended like crazy and did all he could to stay in the point, finally roping a forehand winner down the line at the end of a 26-shot rally. These are not the kind of points Federer is supposed to win. Not a rally that long. Not with a forehand down the line.
On break point, Nadal surprised with a big serve right down the middle. Federer was sitting on a slider out wide, but Nadal was a step ahead.
Back at deuce, Federer gained control of the middle of the court with big forehands and forced a forehand error from Nadal on the run out wide in the ad court. On this break point, Federer hit a ridiculously good backhand return off a wide slider to instantly force a forehand error.
Just like that. Federer led 5-3 in the 5th set.
The last game was a rollercoaster. Why wouldn't it be?
Federer fell behind 0-30 then pumped an ace down the center in the deuce court. Nadal was gambling wide, but got it wrong. Federer lost the ensuing point as Nadal found his way to the net, and all of a sudden the Swiss star was down 15-40.
Once again an ace down the center was the perfect call by the Swiss maestro. Federer then hit two run-around forehands in the ad court, with the second one being a winner back towards Nadal’s forehand. Back to deuce. The pro-Federer crowd on Rod Laver Arena could find oxygen once more.
Federer fought off another break point, and then at the second deuce, served his 20th ace of the match – this time as a slider out wide in the deuce court where Nadal had been sitting on the past two points. He wasn’t sitting on it this time.
On match point, Federer served down the middle to Nadal’s backhand, and the floating slice return sat tantalizing on the service line. Where to hit the winner? Where to win another Grand Slam?
Federer made the right choice to attack Nadal’s backhand wing, and it landed right through the line. Nadal challenged. It wasn’t meant to be.
Federer hit 28 forehand winners and 14 backhand winners. He would win the 0-4 rally length 95-89, serving and volleying 13 times and winning 10.
Overall Federer won 29/40 points at the net, while Nadal only ventured forward 12 times in four sets, winning 10.
Federer’s forehand stood tall. His backhand stood even taller. He won just 44.6 per cent (70/157) from the baseline, but a substantial (29/40) 73 per cent at net.
Federer is the king once again in Melbourne. All hail the king.