The Australian Open final is set: Roger vs. Rafa.
Let us say that again – Roger vs. Rafa. This matchup was unthinkable, even impossible 10 days ago. And yet, here we are. It is every tennis fan’s dream. Quite possibly the greatest rivalry of all time has been revived for one last hurrah. These two old, and (sort-of) broken champions are showing the form that led them to the top, so lucky us. Whether you are in the Rafa or Roger camp, this match will be one that will go down in history. In honor of Sunday’s Grand Slam epic in Melbourne, we look back on the top 5 matches of Roger vs. Rafa.
#5- 2006 French Open
Though this was their first Grand Slam final match-up it was not the beginning of their rivalry. It was, however, the matchup that established the rivalry as one to watch for the next decade-plus. Nadal, then only 20 years old, had won the last 4 matches against Federer. Federer, 24 years old, had a perfect 7-0 record in Grand Slam finals at that point. At the end of the day, Nadal spoiled Roger’s perfection and took the match in 4 sets.
Winner- Nadal 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (4)
#4- 2007 Wimbledon Final
Roger out-aced Nadal by a margin of 24 to 1 in this epic match, and yet it still went 5 long sets. Roger furthered his pursuit towards becoming the greatest Slam champion of all time by winning a fifth consecutive. BUT, Rafa showed Roger just how much his game had improved on grass… an ominous feeling, no doubt.
Winner- Federer 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2
#3- 2008 French Open
This is the only straight-sets final that the two champions have played in a Grand Slam final. Nadal was quoted as saying he played a “near-perfect” match, as he is known to do at Roland Garros. Rafa was at his absolute prime in 2008, but his dominance at the French Open was just beginning.
Winner- Nadal 6-1, 6-3, 6-0
#2- 2009 Australian Open Final
Shockingly, before this weekend, the two giants have only played one Aussie Open final. Less surprisingly, it did not disappoint. Roger was seeking his 14th (and record-tying) Grand Slam title, and though he played a stellar fourth set to even the match, he did not have the game to compete with Rafa’s heavy groundstrokes in the fifth set. He was in tears in the post-match interview but as always Rafa was gracious, and Roger would surpass the record in no time.
Winner- Nadal 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2
#1- 2008 Wimbledon Final
Four hours, 48 minutes. Nine-to-seven in the fifth. Widely regarded as the best match in tennis history, the two titans went to battle, and Rafa was finally able to get the best of Roger on grass, ending his pursuit of a sixth straight title. Many did not think that there could have been a better match than the 2007 final but this was an instant classic, and let the world truly feel his arrival as a force to be reckoned with off the red clay.
Winner- Nadal 6–4, 6–4, 6–7 (5), 6–7 (8), 9–7