Google Down the Line!: (UPDATED) PHOTO OP: Rafa falls to his knees in Oz, defeats Nando in 5-set semifinal thriller

Friday, January 30, 2009

(UPDATED) PHOTO OP: Rafa falls to his knees in Oz, defeats Nando in 5-set semifinal thriller


That's all that needs to be said about the knock down, drag out spectacular 5-set semifinal bout between compatriots Rafael Nadal + Fernando Verdasco which will go down in the record books as the longest match in Aussie Open history (5 hours 14 minutes).

It was a incredibly breathtaking display of raw athleticism, sublime shot-making, heart, and facial expressions but in the end it was Rafa's trademark desire and mental toughness more than anything else that told the tale. The world's top baller edged out Nando who served a double-fault on match point to go down 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4 in a match that featured a combined 147 winners - 95 by Nando alone. SICK.

And the point totals for both ballers? Rafa ended with 193 while Nando had 192. Talk about evenly-matched.

Unfortunately for Rafa, he'll have a quick turnaround for the Sunday final where he'll face Roger Federer in the pair's 19th meeting (12 Rafa, 6 Fed) and first since another classic: the 2008 Wimbledon final won by the Mallorcan Matador. Fed will be looking to tie Pete Sampras' all-time major record of 14 while the top seed will be going for his 6th and first on hard-court.

But a huge congrats to both Spaniards for an incredible effort and for some moments we won't soon forget...

UPDATE: Here's what both ballers had to say about the scheduling of the match:

Rafa -
Q. You're not only the No. 1 in the world, but you are one of the top players in the politics of the ATP. Is there nothing you can do to avoid this problem of scheduling, that you have one day of rest and Roger has two? Apart from Wimbledon, every tournament is screwed up. The US Open, they do what they want. Roland Garros, they do what they want. Here the same. Don't you think the players should do something?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I think Roland Garros is not like this, no?

Q. They play sometimes one day before the other.
RAFAEL NADAL: No. The last four years not (smiling).
Well, the US Open was for both player the semifinal the same day. Here is the only tournament is not like this. But, you know, you still have one day off. So that's the sport. For sure is a little bit more fair if you play the same day. But is like this. Last year was for me, and this year was for Roger in this case, no? Last year I played on Thursday. I lost. I didn't play the final. But, anyway, I play on Thursday, and Roger play on Friday.

Well, this little bit unlucky play one match like today, too hard. So for sure Roger gonna be in much better performance physically than me for the final.

But at the same time I gonna try to be recovered for the final and play my best. I don't know if we can do something because we are involved of the council. But the true, right now I not ready for speak about politic.
Nando -
Q. About Nadal having one day less to rest, don't you think that players should do something to avoid these problems all the time? At the US Open they play Saturday the semifinal before the final. Here they play one day, then the next. Don't you think you, as players, should start to do something?
FERNANDO VERDASCO: I will speak with them in next tournament (smiling).

No, but I think, for sure, the semifinals supposed to be the same day, both semifinals, because I think, you know, is the most fair for everybody, no? Because like right now, yesterday Federer play three sets, and today Rafa play five sets, five hours, and he will have one day less, and with a semifinal much longer.

I think that for sure they supposed to play the two semifinals like the womans, the same day. And I think also with two weeks, you have enough days to make the schedule right and have it like this.

But I don't know why they did it, no? I promise, I didn't know that Federer was playing yesterday. I thought that yesterday was playing only girls, and today two semifinals. When I saw that he was playing yesterday, I was a little bit in shock. I was like, Why he's playing one day before us? He will have much recover, and in the final he will have a little bit more of advantage because he had one day more.

So I don't know why they did it. And I think that, for sure, they need to change it.

Q. Only Wimbledon has the perfect schedule. The others do what they want.
FERNANDO VERDASCO: I think this is one thing that for sure they need to change. If they hear me here, the guys from Australian Open, I'm so happy because I make semifinals here, and is my biggest tournament. But I think that for sure they need to make it better.

And I think if they put the two semifinals the same day, is gonna be more fair for everybody, for all the four players.
(images via WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)


  1. Vamos Rafa. PLEASE RECOVER!!!

  2. Can somebody please explain to me why the World No. 1 (and the top half of the draw for that matter) is playing SECOND?????!!?!?!?! 2nd day 2nd match for the No. 1 player??? From the very get-go of the tourney. I thought it was a perk as being number one that you get to go out first. Apparently it's just a perk for Federer. And he gets an extra day to rest as the semis are played on different days. Those tournament directors can eat my ass. What a crock of shit.

    Here's to Rafa having a great final despite this obvious bias...I believe if anyone can do it, he can. But WTF. Advantage Federer.

  3. what a greatttttt match!!!!!!!! the best of this Ao!! Wonderful Rafa,strong Verdasco!!! Incredible!
    I was so nervous during the match! Im soOoOo happy now!
    Vamoooooooooos Rafaaaa ;-))))


    And btw I agree with you, Anon 10:16 - TOTAL BS!!

  5. Awesome match, every minute nail-biting. Pity it ended on a double fault.

    And a pic of Verdasco minus shirt is great. But where's Rafa's shirtless pic? :P Quite a bit of drooling was going on when he changed shirt ;)

    I'm f Heartbroken for Fernando!I sooooo wanted him to win, first and formost cause Rafa will have his many many finals in the future, it would have been absolutely great and deserved if Nando did make it to the finals, hell, even if he took the TROPHY!
    I'm so fucking tired to constantly watch Rafa-Federer, TIRED!Change would be soooo good on the tour, some diversity.Nando however played brilliantly, and what it showed is, they all know how to play, but champion comes from the inside, you have to dig deep both with your strokes but in your heart aswell.I guess how ever this last game seems tragic, Rafa infact showed heart there with his gutsy returns, and basicly he fought out to be love:40, not just Nando mistakes, but Rafa winners also.
    And Nando had like 95 winners in the match, but about 76 unforced errors, damet.
    So, after all, VAMOS ROGER!I soooo badly want Fed to take this, he is 27 years old, played great troughout the tourney, and I want him to match Pete's record.Rafa is young, he'll have his opportunities, and after this heartbreaking Nando match, wait for your Roland Gaross you Rafa!

  7. Anon 10:16 - They always put the no.1 ranked female on the first day, and then put the no.1 ranked male on the second day. I assume so on a given day you'd generally have the number one player (male or female) on court that day. Maybe it's tradition to give the number one male the second day? Maybe they think they're giving them a nice rest. ;)

  8. Great match, I really hope Rafa wins this title. I think the women should start on Mondays and the men on Tuesdays, the whole extra day of rest is crap regardless of if you are #1 or #2, its an unfair advantage. PS..the nike night outfit looks awesome on nice in black..super hot.

  9. Can't...respond...
    ...looking/drooling/fantasizing...over last picture...

  10. It was a great match but something frustrating for a rafanatic ;)
    I am a bit worried about Rafa's game, he didn't play his best game. And Fed is so I think it's going to be a tough final. I really want Rafa to win but I seer Fed as a favourite, also because of the extra rest. But if anyone can do it, it's Rafa!
    The moment after the match was so cute, when Rafa hugged Nando :)

  11. *recovers*
    OMG, Rafa, I KNEW I should have made a Verdasco voodoo doll. I'm so, so, so, SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO sorry.

    ...erm, what can I do to make it up to you? A dentist told me yesterday I had an abnormally strong tongue. Any ideas yet...???

  12. Terry Lee: I agree - extra day of rest is crap regardless. But after watching Rafa go on second for three years when he was No. 2, and then to still see him playing under this disadvantage as the No. 1?? That is def frustrating, so I understand why people are pissed. What gives?? I don't really get it.

    Anyways, a great match indeed...but like Sabine said, a little scary for a Rafanatic!! ;) Their exchange was cute at the end...esp when Rafa climbed over the net to get to Fern :) Awwwwww....

  13. great pic of nando rafa hug...oh to be the jamon in that sandwich...sigh

  14. johanne, I think this had nothing to do with Fed or Rafa but Djoker. I think they always have the defending champ go day 1... I could be wrong, but that's what I heard...

    But WOW! This match was fucking EPIC!!!! I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat for the entire 5th set!
    Of course I'm more than happy that Rafa won, but I was amazed to see how good Nando is!
    Props to both guys!

    And now Rafa, go to bed, relax, recover and beat TMF on Sunday...

    And by the way, I never wanted to be a sweat soaked T-Shirt as much as during this match *remembers, swoons* HELL YEAH!

  15. I don't like the schedules of the semis. This gave Roger an advantage. Like the US Open, his opponent in the final will be exhausted.

  16. ALL: I just updated the post with comments from both boys about the scheduling of that match. Oh and a shirtless Rafapic!!!!

  17. That match was a nail-biter and I still haven't figured out how Rafa won it. No matter how much I yelled, "Deeper, Rafa, deeper!" he kept hitting short balls that Nando would pounce on.

    And Rafa always looks confused during shirt changes. Nando appears to be channeling something sublime.

  18. I'm sorry Rich but I am so nabbing that pic to be my wallpaper for a while. He has a sprinkling of hair that is.. just... nice...

    "And Rafa always looks confused during shirt changes. Nando appears to be channeling something sublime."

    I LOL so hard.

  19. RiCH: thanks for the update!! Who knows, maybe in the end this will help Rafa relax and will take some pressure off him. I don't think anyone is expecting him to come out guns blazing... maybe that will help him dig deep and just play his game. I still believe he has it in him...but he definitely got screwed schedule wise :(


    P.S. All those pics are HOT - you can taste the intensity!!!!!

  20. Tsonga, who was on Rafa's half of the draw, asked the tournament directors to let the top half of the draw go second so he'd have one more day to recuperate from his back troubles. They agreed and that is why Rafa played the second semifinal. It's Tsonga's fault!

    I hope the tournament people had the courtesy to ask Rafa to okay the switch since two days' rest before the final is a very nice perk for the #1 seed.

  21. Incredible match, I'm still exhausted from watching it. I wish people would understand that Rafa was essentially playing a new player. Nando was playing awesome tennis with regular serve bombs in the 130's. Rafa had to change tactics, if he'd gone for flatter shots Nando would have just teed off on it. He did the same with (sorta) with Simon since he can't create his own pace.

    He'll be fatigued against Fed, but he knows his game well. Who knows what will happen, but I doubt he'll play Fed the same way.

    As much as I appreciated Nando's play, I'm mad at him for tiring out Rafa. 5:14. Poor Rafa. Rest up!

  22. I know the magnificent match was the longest semi in AO history.

    But I think the longest match in history may well have been the opener, with another Spaniard - Feli Lopez v. Gilles Muller in 5h 20m.

  23. P.S. Vamos Rafa. Please recover.

  24. Pamela,

    Shirtless Rafa, THANK YOU. But really, can I have that last pic in wall-size? Please? I'll literally use it as wallpaper. Or a bedspread...

  25. P.P.S. @ Pamela --

    "He'll be fatigued against Fed, but he knows his game well. Who knows what will happen, but I doubt he'll play Fed the same way."
    Doubt it very much. Since Roger's a righty (Nando is a lefty) I think Rafa will try to force shots to Roger's BH.

    "As much as I appreciated Nando's play, I'm mad at him for tiring out Rafa."
    Me too. The only thing saving me from getting really teed is that Rafa expected the match to be tough, and would have known if Nando wasn't playing his best. I so feel you, though.

  26. Anonymous: I just wish him luck. Fed may be a little nervous trying to reach history to equal Pete Sampras against a player that routinely beats him. (although not on hard court)

  27. anon 2:24 - "I know the magnificent match was the longest semi in AO history.

    But I think the longest match in history may well have been the opener, with another Spaniard - Feli Lopez v. Gilles Muller in 5h 20m."

    From the Aussie Open site:

    "Before Friday night, Boris Becker’s 1991 defeat of Omar Camporese had been, at five hours and 11 minutes, the longest match in Australian Open history. Nadal versus Verdasco came in at three minutes longer, and beat Andy Roddick’s protracted 2003 quarterfinal against Younes El Aynaoui by 15 minutes."

    natch: you can use the image as a bedspread and his arse as pillows, no?

  28. *faints onto Rafarse*

  29. Rich - there was a timing error on the Feli/Muller match. It was not over 5 hours. Rafa/Nando is officially the longest match.

  30. WHAT. A. MATCH. Such a thriller!!!

    Nando really played grrrreat and very gutsy. But the true champion won in the end and once again proved why he's the number 1 (in words: ONE) in the world.

    But it's bittersweet for me since Rafa will probably more weary than Roger now. And don't get me started on the scheduling screwup.

    But that's the way it is, Rafa will have to deal with it. And he will. I'm confident he can take Roger.

    VAMOS RAFA!!!!!

    PS: Maja - "And by the way, I never wanted to be a sweat soaked T-Shirt as much as during this match *remembers, swoons* HELL YEAH!"

    Exactly me thoughts! o_O *darooool*

  31. "will probably BE more weary" and
    "exactly MY thoughts"

    Can't.... think.... straight.... with hotness Rafa pics at hand...



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