2009 Match of the Year: Rafa vs Nando

Photo by WILLIAM WEST/ AFP/ Getty Images

Photo by WILLIAM WEST/ AFP/ Getty Images

I love this match. The whole darn thing. It was interesting from start to finish – how many 5 hour matches can you say that about? The only thing wrong with it? The last point. No match with this much quality and high level of play should end on a double fault.

From Tennistalk.com

After five hours and 14 minutes of inspirational tennis, Rafael Nadal outlasted fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7(1), 6-4 in an epic semifinal on Friday night, January 30.
It was not simply the longest match in tournament history. It was also, without question, one of the best.

Refusing to wilt under the Australian summer heat or amidst the pressure of a Grand Slam semifinal, both competitors—remarkably—sustained a jaw-dropping level of tennis throughout all 314 minutes of their spirited, incredibly well-played clash.

Verdasco, having never previously sniffed the final weekend of a Grand Slam, blasted 95 winners past Nadal. Has anyone ever—and I mean EVER—struck 95 shots within the lines yet beyond the reach of a player of Nadal’s defensive caliber?

Nadal, meanwhile, fired more than twice as many winners (52) as unforced errors. The tournament’s No. 1 seed committed a mere 25 mistakes over the course of the entire match. For those counting, that means Nadal made one unforced error—just one—every 12 minutes and 34 seconds. Are you serious?

Keep in mind, furthermore, that a significant percentage of the points consisted of marathon, hard-to-believe rallies. Only 33 points resulted in aces. Still, in brilliant fashion, Nadal and Verdasco combined for 46 more winners than errors.

They played 59 games and 385 points. Prior to the 385th and final point of the instant classic, it was all even: Nadal 192, Verdasco 192.

A heavy underdog against an opponent whom he had never defeated in six career attempts, Verdasco went toe to toe with Nadal until the very last second. Serving to stay alive at 4-5 in the fifth set, Verdasco saved two match points at 0-40 and 30-40, both with swinging volley winners.

“In the last game, at 0-40, I started to cry,” Nadal explained afterward. “It was too much tension.”

And he was right. It was too much.

43 Responses

  1. CC says:

    ““In the last game, at 0-40, I started to cry,” Nadal explained afterward.”

    And that’s my Rafa on court moment of 2009, and the reason why I love him. Nobody has as much heart as Rafa in sports, me thinks. Just great.

    • faeaki7 says:

      I so agree, I too absolutely loved this match, I was gripped from the beginning to the end, missed everything that day and Rafa’s tears when he was up 0-40 on Nandos serve (match point) was incredible as was his dandelion wish in the final, Rafa has everything, emotion, determination, passion and a will to win like no other, there will never be another Rafa ever!!!

  2. IIOO says:

    I couldn’t watch the match, because I was at work, but a friend kept me texting me that she made the whole office watch the stream. She kept writing on every great point, needless to say I soon had no more space in my inbox :D
    Recenty a lot of people say they downloaded it and I was thinking about doing the same, now that I read this I will most likely download it.

  3. mary says:

    I think they should rephrase this to say “The Match of all Matches” or “The Mother of all Matches”.
    And to think Rafa came through this & went on in less than a day & a half to win the AO. He has amazing resistencia y corazon (resilience & heart).
    Something to aspire too!!

  4. Atch2 says:

    The quality of the match was so high. And it wasn’t even the final! I was so stressed when I was watching this. I felt so sad when Nando ended on a double fault. He looked shattered. Luved the hug at the end.
    The stats are also amazing… Over a 5hr 14min match, “a mere 25 mistakes over the course of the entire match”?! WTF Rafa.

  5. An says:

    I totally do agree!

    The Wimbledon final Rafa won was a great match to watch…. but due to the rain breaks there was time in between to take deep breaths!
    But this one….. oh my! It kept me stuck in front off my tv screen for the whole 5+ hours it took! And i have to ad that i do have some off the same problem as Rafa, can’t sit still for more then 5 minutes in general. So…

    Nando was awesome and Rafa was more off the same! I loved it and after i saw him winning this match, knowing i wouldnt be able to watch the final live, i had peace with not being able to watch, i tought he could’nt loose annymore cause he was more then the a winner, more then the champion to me…. to winn this match took so much heart like i knew only our Rafa has!

  6. Paolina says:

    THE MATCH OF YEAR!!! IT’S TRUE!!! :) SUPER MATCH!!!

  7. Carol says:

    Definitely beats the Fed-Roddick Wimby final.

    There is a pic of Nando alone on his knees at the end (I think it’s on the Getty images site), which just makes me want to cry – he is just so totally gutted there.

    Now Fernando really did deserve a Rafa-hug and kind word (and no,I don’t recall that he cried on court, whatever he did in the locker room afterwards).

  8. Rafangel says:

    Does anyone know where I can get a full copy of this match? I record all the ones broadcast on TV but this one went over two DVDs – and the second one has disappeared! Argh! Dying to see it!

    Have to admit, this is the only match Rafa’s ever played where I stopped watching cos I couldn’t stand the tension. Wimby was tenser – and more exciting, cos of what was at stake – but I figured if he could play it, I could watch it. I thought the rain delays made the tension greater – couldn’t at all calm down during them! Happy days :-) More, please, Rafa.

    • Emma R says:

      I would really like a copy as well. I know they released the final on DVD, but it just wasn’t as good as this – unsurprising as it’s one of the best I have ever seen.

      I never knew Rafa cried in that last game, which could well have been because I was on the ceiling with my head in my hands by then. Wouldn’t mind having another look at it again to try and find the moment. I certainly know that I was in tears when Nando went out on the double; he must have been in pieces. Just hope he knows now how utterly amazing it was and how people will never forget it.

      Can’t decide at all if it was better than Wimb08 Final – suffice to say they were both incredible and I felt priviledged to have watched them.

      • miri says:

        I purchased my copy from Tennis Nexus and am happy with it. I would like an official copy, though. There’s a “highlights” version from the official site, but it’s not the whole match – which is just wrong.

        • faeaki7 says:

          Thank you Miri for the info, I will try to get this I have always wanted it!

        • mary says:

          Thanks, muchas gracias amiga!!! I had buried this site somewhere deep in my favs. I don’t have go searching now. ;-)

        • aRafaelite says:

          There were rumours about the match being released on an official DVD… maybe it will be released to coincide with AO next year?

          • miri says:

            All they’ve done is a 3 hour highlights version – don’t know if they plan to do a full version or not.

            • mary says:

              It seems forever, but I put a request in for the full version ages ago maybe 6 months & still haven’t had a reply. Hope aRafaelite is correct and the full version comes out.

      • Karen says:

        In reply to ‘Rafa crying in last game’ I recall him saying it was when he was at 0-40 matchpoint because he was so close to the AO final at that point.I think he must have gathered his composure quickly as I saw whole
        Match and didn’t notice this.If you can find this on YouTube and watch him at 0-40 when waiting to receive serve you may notice he looks emotional there!!!! Hope this is helpful .I loved this match and really thought he would be so tired in final and couldn’t see last 3 sets so was overjoyed when saw result later.He really knows how to make you sweat and worry when you don’t know what score is.Adore him in every way possible.

        • CC says:

          Yeah, Rafa definitely choked back the tears when he finally had a match point. I remember watching the replay after work that day thinking “OMG he’s crying, I love him so much”. I guess it was just tension, exhaustion and everyting else… I’m sure it’ll be somewhere on Youtube.

          • Emma R says:

            Thanks for all the hints, I will definitely have a proper look. Could only see a few highlights when I looked the other day, and they didn’t tend to show the whole last game.

            Tennis Nexus looks like it could be a very useful resource as well, so cheers for that too. There’s a few other matches I wouldn’t mind getting hold of as well.

            I read the whole article on Tennis Talk and was glad to see Nando sounded like he knew how everyone viewed the match – really hope he could hold onto that thought in hindsight even though he got beaten.

    • tiemyshoe says:

      I downloaded a great version from t3nnis.tv that is without commentary, so you can watch it as it plays out sans the blabbering and really, really hear the crowd and atmosphere. Highly recommend that site for torrenting matches.

  9. Rafangel says:

    Thanks Miri :-)

    • OLIVIA says:

      I THINK RAFA IZ ABSOLUTELY THE BEST PLAYER OF THIS ERA…..I M HIS BIGGEST FAN EVER FOUND IN THE UNIVERSE…HE IZ DAMN TALENTED & HAS SUPERIOR TALENTS & HE IZ TOOOO DECENT & CUTE!!!! I RELLY LOVE HIM!!!

  10. OLIVIA says:

    Hey if u thnk i m yeeling at people then u r wrong darling!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. sunset says:

    Rafa crying at 5-4, 40-0 for anyone who missed it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiQ7Vicbnio

    At 5:24 and onwards. This is also the last part of a nice version of the full match–it has been cut into 30 10-minute-something intervals.

    • mary says:

      Thanks sunset & others for pointing this out. I remember seeing him looking very stressed/upset. Thought at this point it was a mixture of fatigue & at 3 match points. He says he was crying & now my heart goes out even further for him, if that is possible.
      Gosh we are soooooooooo privilaged to witness such an event & such a man or in this case 2 incredible men play the best tennis we’re ever likely to see.

      • sunset says:

        You are welcome, mary. Rafa was definitely on the verge of a breakdown there. The mere act of standing there and sticking it out seemed to make him ache. But he did stick it out. So happy for him.

        • Emma R says:

          Oh thank you, I should have had the sense to scroll down. God love him, he looks about ten, I don’t know how they held it together – either of them. Nando’s point at 30-40 with the volley….just courage and instinct…so dreadful to lose on a double fault.

          I did miss it at the time, but was in tears myself, so not surprised there. Absolute respect to both.

    • CC says:

      Thanks, sunset. Truly great. Rafa’s last winner in the 4-4 game and the first point in the 5-4 game make me really want to watch the whole thing again!

      Oh, and…

      *whispers*

      If you check out 7:22 that’s like…phew. I need a moment to myself.

      • An says:

        Ha… I have to watch the video still… but i have a pretty good idea what is going on at 7.22….. * whispers in CC’s ear* Rafa is lying on his back there, No? I still dream of that at night;)

        • CC says:

          *whispers back to An*

          Yes, at first, when I saw a photo of Rafa on his back from this match I thought that they had photo shopped it. But then more and more photos popped up with the same image, from different angles and I thought…

          *can’t whisper anymore*

          …hell YEAAAH, hot DAYUM! ;)

    • Ch F says:

      Great indeed. Thanks. An all Rafa video. Really want to see him going back to that form ;-). Vamos Rafa!!

    • Atch2 says:

      Yes thanks for link. Great quality and commentating. And the respect that the crowd gave both players with the silence during play and cheers in between and at the finish was awesome. Gotta get me a copy of that match.

      Rafa looked invincible at the AO. Oozing confidence and colm.

      Agree with cc, “Rafa’s last winner in the 4-4 game and the first point in the 5-4 game” were amazing to watch. That buggywhip forehand is a beautiful sight. How did they maintain the quality of that rally after 5 hrs of play? And it’s heartbreak to realise that Nando’s last double fault was only his 4th of the match.

      I looked at Nando in a new light after that match. He deserves respect.

      And I always wondered if this match and the 4hr+ with Fed in the AO final contrubuted much to the knees giving way during Miami. But one thing I don’t miss about this AO is Rafa’s knee bandages.

      • aRafaelite says:

        My heart was with Rafa 100% but Fernando was so incredible in that match he rocketed up my favourites list to claim the Number 2 spot! I’m glad he’s finished the year in the Top Ten – he’s worked hard for his success this year and deserves it. I was glued to the TV from start to finish. How they both kept up that level of intensity for so long is beyond me – I barely survived watching! – not to mention maintaining that standard of play! It was a great shame that it ended on a double fault, and that someone had to lose. Definitely the best match of the year, and hot on the heels of Wimbledon 2008 for best match of the decade. Heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring tennis, unparalleled for sheer drama!

    • Eliana says:

      Sunset, thank you so much for the link! I’ve seen in the past the clip of Rafa teary eyed but hasn’t been succesful at finding the whole match(couldn’t watch it at the time cause of work). I’m up to half of the second set, loving every minute. Definitely the best match of the whole year.

    • sunset says:

      You are welcome all…plus the credit should really go to RivalrySuper who created those clips.
      When the match was over and Rafa was walking towards the bench, he pulled the shirt up to cover his face for a moment. I suspect that from that moment on tears had been coming down non-stop. When Nando was retreating Rafa could barely look him in the eyes–to avoid giving away his own emotions, perhaps? Nando was fairly emotional himself at 8:46. Great match, finest pair of warriors.

      • mary says:

        Yes. watching those last parts of the match makes me all emotional again. It is one of those few matches where you really didn’t want to see a loser or a winner, but that is the nature of any competition. However, we all have a new respect for Nando, he really gave his all.
        I just know way into the future this may very well go into the annuals as one of the most exciting, emotionally & physically energised & (at present) one of the longest games ever.

  12. sia says:

    Simply a breathtaking match.

  13. Clare says:

    I was lucky enough to be at this match (and the tournament) for work and to say that it was unbelievable would be a massive understatement.

    No-one (well not too many) left despite the time, the whole stadium was transfixed and absorbed by some of the best tennis and one of the best “fights” we had ever seen on Rod Laver.

    I saw Rafa was choking up at 0-40, and it broke my heart as it did with everyone around me who were simply blown away by what we had seen, and maybe just a little disappointed that it actually had to come to an end and there was going to be a loser. Neither deserved that.

    Fernando was magnificent and for huge amounts of the match was better and more aggressive and was hitting insane winners, but as he does time and time again, Rafa was there and stayed there until he won.

    I was at the final as well and while that was great for very different reasons (the win!!!) this match was the best on-court testament to what a great game tennis can be when it is played by these kinds of players (nothing better than a never give up attitude).

    As Bud Collins said – “Nadal versus Verdasco, was one for the ages”.

  14. faeaki7 says:

    Really just had to watch that clip again of dear Rafa so emotional, what a moment and what perfect tennis by both players, so sad it ended on a double fault although I have to say I was relieved for Rafa at the time that he had won, the tension was just too much to bear! and the way he clapped his opponent as he walked off court, what a great great sportsman/champ he is.

  15. Rafafan says:

    Hi all, just watching the DVD I bought. Our Rafa v Fed (seen the Verdasco one 2!). Well what a match and lets hope he will do the same thing in 2010!! BTW – I didn’t know until now that our Rafa was wearing the black shorts but with glitter stars in them.

    If anyone wants to c go on Eurosport 2 2mo (English time 23 Dec 6pm) they are showing the highlights. Got my friend to tape Eursport 2day. Apparently 7pm they were showing Tsonga demolishing Rafa at the Australia open in 2008. God never seen it, do I want to but its our Rafa so I guess have to. Miri – hope ok lots of other stuff a out Rafa on sky next couple of days but want your permission to put it on!