The Australian Open, commonly referred to as “The Happy Slam”, usually holds true to its nickname. Each edition seems to have its fair share of exciting upsets, marathon matches in the Aussie summer heat, and crowds that make the event even more colorful than Melbourne Park’s blue acrylic courts.
Although it’s just ended, 2017’s edition was particularly special. It saw Serena Williams etch herself deeper into the roots of tennis history with her 23rd major victory, leaving her one short of Margaret Court’s record. It also saw the civil rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer reignited.
Once Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were upset and out of the Aussie draw, it became clear that a Federer-Nadal final was a high possibility.
Both Nadal and Federer have battled injuries as of late, so their returns to the tour have been equally impressive. However, with Federer beating Nadal in the final to secure his 18th major trophy, the spotlight’s on the Swiss and his comeback.
Leading up to this Australian Open, Nadal had beaten Federer in their last 5 meetings at a major. He also boasted a 23-11 record against the Maestro.
However Federer’s return to tennis leading up to the Aussie Open indicated he was in near vintage form. Despite losing to the German sensation Alexander Zverev in 3 tiebreak sets, Roger made easy work of Britain’s Dan Evans and top-30 stalwart Richard Gasquet. David Goffin even remarked in preseason training that Fed looked as good as he ever has.
Most of the final played out as any good and epic Nadal-Federer match would: both men dealing with the adversity of their opponent’s opposite playing style, coming up with big breaks, a litany of incredible shot-making, each guy winning every other set, and so on.
The most crucial turn of events ended up coming in the fifth set, where Fed overcame a 3-1 deficit and went on to take the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in 3 hours and 38 minutes.
Although this year’s Australian Open Men’s Final was probably a disappointment for Rafael Nadal fans, it provided promise for both them and the entirety of the tennis world. It reaffirmed that age is but a number, that injury can be overcome, and that we are still in the midst of a golden age of the sport.