Proving all the talking heads wrong, Rafa won the Australian Open defeating Roger Federer 7-5 3-6 7-6(7-3) 3-6 6-2. It was an amazing match that, quite frankly, took a few years off my life. Momentum shifts were frequent and I kept prematurely writing off a player only to have them come roaring back.
I have no idea how Rafa managed to play five tough sets after that 5 hour semi-final – which ended less than 50 hours before this match. His stamina and mental will are simply amazing. He looked dead on his feet in the third set and yet he did it. His first hard court major final and he wins. He’s now won majors on every surface.
Oh, and that hug he gave to Fed on the victory stand? Wonderful.
“As it happened” commentary after the break.
Thanks to a double fault and two unforced errors from Fed, Rafa got his first service break in the very first game of the match. The second game saw Rafa get passed on his first net approach as Fed increased the pace and accuracy of his shots. A nasty net cord gave Fed a break point against, but Rafa served well to bring things back to deuce. Fed earned another break point after a few long rallies that saw him taking advantage of some short balls from Rafa. Unable to get a first serve in, Rafa was broken after his second break point against. So, we started the third game on serve. A crisp service game from Fed quickly took us to 1-2.
They held serve to 2-3 when Fed got a break point on Rafa’s serve and capitalized on it with a blistering forehand down the line. Two amazing defense-to-offence shots from Rafa got him a break point in the next game. Fed double-faulted to give Rafa the break and bring things back to on serve where things stayed until 5-5. In the eleventh game, a well-placed drop shot got Rafa three break points. He only needed one to go up 6-5 and give himself the opportunity to serve for the first set. Rafa played a tight shot on his first set point, but closed it out on his second opportunity.
After getting down 0-30 on his first service game in set two, Fed managed to pull it out with some strong serving. Both held to 1-2 when Fed hit a blistering forehand to go up a break point, but Rafa canceled that out with a beautiful ace and eventually took things to 2-2. Rafa capitalized on his first break point in game five to go up 3-2. A double fault and a shaky shot from Rafa gave Fed a break point in the very next game and Fed took advantage of it. Fed earned a double break point in Rafa’s next game, but Rafa pulled things back to deuce. Undaunted, Fed got another break point on the next point. Rafa aced back to deuce. Again Fed gets a break point that Rafa saves with a drop shot. Rafa got and lost an Ad and Fed ended up with another break point – his fifth of the game. He capitalized on that one to give himself the opportunity to serve for the second set – which he did.
In the third set, they both held to go to 3-2. After that game, Rafa took a pill (anti-inflammatory?) and asked for the trainer on the next change over. He got a break point in the next game, but a short ball left Fed with plenty of time to whack a winner to go to deuce. Fed went on to hold to 3-3. Both guys held and Rafa got a bit of a massage on his right thigh on the change over, but no injury time out.
At 4-4, Rafa served a very tired looking service game and gave Fed triple break point. Rafa managed to win the next three points to bring things back to deuce and somehow managed to pull out the game. The trainer continued to work on Rafa’s right thigh and hamstring during the next change over. After an easy hold for Fed, he gets double break point on Rafa’s next serve. Rafa saved both break points and they went back to deuce. A long ball from Rafa gave Fed another break point, but Rafa smoked a forehand to get things back to deuce again. It took a few more deuces and ads, but Rafa finally held and the score was 6-5. Rafa got a break point in the next game, but Fed saved it with an excellent serve. On the deuce point, Rafa sent a forehand barely wide to give Fed the Ad. A blistering forehand return on the next shot brought things back to deuce, but Fed negated it with an ace. Fed sent a volley wide on the next point to take things back to deuce. A strong forehand and an ace gave Fed the game and took them to a tiebreak.
Rafa sent a forehand wide on the first point of the tiebreak to go down a mini-break. He gets the break back on a long shot from Fed. A smart serve/volley from Fed takes things to 1-2. Fed sends shots wide and long on Rafa’s next serves and the score is 3-2. A good volley from Fed takes them to 3-3. Fed sprays a shot wide to give Rafa a mini-break and the score is 4-3. Two blistering shots from Rafa takes them to 6-3 and gives Rafa three set points. Fed double faults to give Rafa the third set.
Fed starts the fourth set with a hold at love. Rafa sent a shot into the net to give Fed double break point in his first service game of the set. Fed only needed one to go up 0-2. Rafa chases down a shot to give himself a break point in the next game and he capitalizes on it right away to put them back on serve. The very next service game, Rafa goes up double break point, but Fed saves both of them to get back on deuce. Rafa mis-fired on a wimpy second serve and Fed goes up an Ad. An amazing point with both players scrambling takes them back to deuce. Fed places a beautiful drop shot to give himself another Ad, but double faults back to deuce. Fed sends a backhand wide to give Rafa another break point, but Rafa sends a drop shot reply wide and we are back at deuce. Another “how the hell did they do that” point gives Rafa a break point. But Fed wipes that away with an ace. A nasty net cord gives Rafa yet another break point, but Fed responds with a blistering forehand and they are back on deuce. A blistering backhand gives Fed the game point, but a wide shot from Fed takes things back to deuce. Fed finally gets two points in a row and holds for 2-3.
A few errant shots gives Fed a break point in Rafa’s next service game and he capitalizes on it right away. Fed then holds his next service game at love to go up 2-5. Rafa holds his next game easily to force Fed to serve for the set. Fed holds easily and they are through to a fifth set.
Both guys held serve easily to get to 2-1. In the third game, Fed double faulted and sent a shot wide to give Rafa a break point. A shot into the net by Fed gave Rafa the break. Rafa consolidated the break and he’s up 4-1. Fed holds at love and it’s 4-2. Rafa responds with his own love service games and it’s 5-2. In the next game, Fed double faults to give Rafa a 30-0 lead. Rafa sends a shot long and it’s 30-15. Fed sends a shot long and Rafa has two championship points. One long shot and one wide shot from Rafa saves both points for Fed. Rafa hits a beautiful shot to the back corner and earns another match point. Fed sends a forehand over the line and Rafa wins!
Some stats for Rafa:
Double Faults: 4
1st Serve %: 63% (112/179)
Win % on 1st serve: 66% (74/112)
Win % on 2nd serve: 45% (30/67)
Unforced Errors: 41
Receiving Points Won: 42% (75/178)
Break Point Conversions: 44% (7/16)
Total Points Won: 173 (to Roger’s 174)
Net Approaches: 58% (15/26)