Google Down the Line!: PREVIEW: Australian Open Men's Final

Saturday, January 31, 2009

PREVIEW: Australian Open Men's Final

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Roger Federer (2)
Head-to-head: Rafa 12, Fed 6
Last meeting: Wimbledon, Rafa 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-7 (8) 9-7

The next chapter in this already legendary rivalry between top seed Rafael Nadal and second seeded Roger Federer is ready to be told.

In the pair's 19th career meeting, Rafa will be looking to win his first hard-court major title and sixth overall when he battles 3-time champ Roger Federer who will attempt to tie Pete Sampras' record of 14 career major titles in Sunday's Aussie Open final. Let's take a look...

How They Got Here: Rafa played his first five matches in blazing form, not dropping a single set on his way to the final four. But that streak ended when he met up with compatriot Fernando Verdasco in an epic semifinal slugfest that now sits as the longest match in Oz Open history. No one will soon forget the stirring images from this now-classic match including the joy and relief of Rafa's reaction after a painful double-fault on match point by Nando gave the 22-year old a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4 victory.

Regal Rog also began the tourney relatively well but hit a major speed bump in his fourth rounder, coming back from 2 sets to none down to defeat Czech Tomas Berdych. In his semifinal match, Fed confronted an in-form, in-shape Andy Roddick but bested the American baller for the 16th time 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 to enter his fourth Oz Open final and fourth consecutive major final.

The last time these two met was in arguably the greatest tennis match ever played - the '08 Wimbledon final. It was the third consecutive meeting for the pair in the Wimby final but this time Rafa came out on top, earning his first Championship and stopping the Swiss stylist's streak of 5 consecutive titles at the All-England Club with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 win.

In his semifinal post-match presser, the Mallorcan Matador was asked about facing Fed again and what tactics he might employ:
Q. How exciting is it for you to finally play Federer in a Grand Slam on hard court?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, always is ‑ I don't know ‑ special play against Federer any match, no? You play another final of Grand Slam is more exciting, no?

Little bit unlucky. Don't know how I gonna be for the final. I gonna try my best for sure for recover my body and my physical performance. But, you know, after one match like this, the next days you feel much heavier, no?

But for sure for me is amazing play another final of Grand Slam. Here in Australia, the first one. Well, unlucky all the time is against the same: the best. For sure, I prefer another opponent. But that's makes big the sport, too, no, finals like this.

Q. Do you plan to play closer to the baseline against Federer? Tonight you had to run really a lot.

RAFAEL NADAL: Was tough to be more inside, no? What do you think? Did you see the speed of the ball or not (laughter)?

Q. I saw he was able to stay farther in front.

RAFAEL NADAL: I would love to be more inside, yeah. I gonna try to be more inside for the final, but I am playing against Federer.

Fed was asked about Rafa's grueling 5-hour semifinal bout and if he thought now had an advantage in the final:
Q. You had a bit of trouble watching last night's match did you, or did you have to get back down here to do it?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I was practicing at the beginning of the match. It took a while, so I went for dinner and saw the end. It was really exciting. It was an unbelievable match.

Q. What did you think about? What was going through your mind as you were watching it?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, as I didn't see the whole thing, it was kind of difficult to judge. But you heard, you know, that Fernando was struggling with his leg, you know, at one stage, but then looked much better again.

But it was just good to see such a close contested match, I thought. In the end it was unfortunate it had to finish on a double fault, but I thought the quality was very good.

Q. It was one of the great ones. Does it make you feel that you've got more of that advantage now that you've had the extra 24 hours and Rafa has had to dig so deep through five hours?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, you could think that way, but I don't think it's really going to affect Rafa that much. He's had very easy matches going into this semifinal.

Okay, he has a day less. But, look, I mean, you got to be fit and recover from this kind of a match. I think he will, even though he took a while. His matches usually take longer than other matches because he takes his time out on the court. I don't think he will be really affected on Sunday.
Outlook: In full flight, Rafa would have more than enough game to topple The Fed in Oz. But after his grueling semifinal that ended in the early morning hours on Saturday and only a day to recover and get in some practice, will he be fit for the fight? Big question mark. But if anyone has the mental and physical strength to push the pain aside and pull through, it's Rafa. This time, however, it may be too much to ask. The top baller will need to pull ahead early (as he did at Wimby), keep the points short, hold his ground on the baseline, and step inside and attack when the opportunity hits. If he gets the first set or two, then game on.

For his part, Fed will be looking to lengthen the rallies, move Rafa side to side, and maybe throw in some drop shots to gauge the Spaniard's fitness early on. But the 13-time Grand Slammer is certainly the fresher of the two and will hold the advantage if they match gets to a fourth or fifth set. He'll still need to serve well, dictate with the forehand, and end points at the net in order to keep the World No.1 from gaining any momentum. Fed will be smart to stay aggressive and attack at every opportunity because even a weary Rafa will push himself to run for the fences.

However, with all that's on the line for Regal Rog coupled with a possibly-fatigued Rafa, we'll most likely looking at history in the making when he earns his second consecutive Grand Slam title and record-tying 14th career major in Oz.


(images via AP, Getty)


  1. Federer is one lucky SOB.
    Kick his arse Raffie

  2. I really hope Rafa, but I agree with you that Fed has got the best chances. I just hope it's going to be a great match again!

  3. I really hope Rafa, but I agree with you that Fed has got the best chances. I just hope it's going to be a great match again!

  4. i hope that it's roger but hopefully it'll be an incredible match.

  5. If the tournaments are cool with allowing these sort of unfair advantages to exist at the very highest level of tennis, why stop at giving an extra's day rest? Why not let some of the guys play best of 3 matches? Why not let some guys win a service game when up 30/love - who needs the extra 2 points anyways? Ooohhh that doesn't make sense?? Yeah well neither does this. It's total bullshit and they should be ashamed of themselves for considering this acceptable.

  6. I think it'll not affect him much more... nevertheless, one day more or less, he is in great shape... kick roger out of rod laver arena!


  7. Anon 4:24, I couldn't agree more. No matter who it favored, the scheduling was a travesty, and you can bet that if Federer were on the end of such a terrible schedule, there'd be an absolute UPROAR. I'm not saying there's a conspiracy, only that he's incredibly lucky and has more than once benefited from a tournie's bad decisions.

    But I shan't be negative. Let's see what Rafa can show. I put nothing past him. VAMOS!

  8. Rafa fans, have faith in your man - he's the fittest guy on tour! Playing the longest Australian Open match in history ain't no thang for a guy who cracks walnuts between his thighs (look for it on youtube!)

    As a big time Fed fan (borderline Fedophile) I have to say that I think RiCH is jinxing Rog big time with this prediction. Thanks a lot! :)

  9. Anon 4:36, this type of scheduling "travesty" happened last year too - Roger had only one day off before the final and Rafa would have had 2...except he was knocked out by Tsonga and never made it to the final.

    And, yes, Roger does tend to be incredibly lucky...but he can't control the scheduling, rain delays or the fact that 90% of the players in the world play like chumps compared to him (and therefore, everyone always accuses him of having an "easy draw").

  10. I second what many posters before me said: Roger would be the winner on the paper, but I really hope Rafa can pull it off.

    freakyfrites is in fact right: He's the fittest player on the tour, I'm sure he'll recover.

    I just hope it'll be a great battle with the two geniuses of tennis!! Can't wait!!

  11. Vamos Rafa, kick Fed's ugly arrogant butt!!!

  12. I don't understand why some people are blaming federer for the schedule problems. i agree it is not a fair schedule, but let's not act like this has never happened before...this kind of scheduling has been done for a while now and has never come up as an issue...just because rafa faced an oponent that gave him trouble doesn't automatically make it roger's fault. Roger too had a tough match earlier on in the tournament, and a day later came out and blew del potro off the court. this is what they train for.. technically, rafa did get a days rest, it is just a case of him having trouble with his opponent which may or may not have happened, after all, all his other matches were a breeze. as for federer being arrogant, maybe im biased, but federer has lost to rafa many times and he always did it with class, show the guy some respect, i think we can all agree that he earned it.

  13. Haha. It's all RF's fault ei. Always.

    Get over it, people. Doesn't bode well for your idol (whether you are a Rafa fan or for some other player).

  14. Anon 7:37, I'm don't blame Federer for the schedule problems. I'm pointing my finger at the AO. NOBODY should get this kind of advantage, no matter what side of the draw you're on, no matter what year it is, or what happened last year. THAT'S what's BS. And it's a real shame they choose to operate like this.

    P.S. Anon 5:46 - Fed got knocked out in the semis by Nole last year.

    - Anon 4:24

  15. Anon 4:24 - I'm aware that Fed didn't make it past the semis at last year's AO. I'm just pointing out that was one instance when Rafa would have had an extra day of rest over Federer had they both made it to the finals. As i recall, this has happened in previous AOs too - Federer only gets 1 day to recover for the finals, his opponent has 2. These guys are used to it anyway - Rafa is the fittest player on tour and recovery shouldn't be an issue for him (especially because prior to the SF, he had pretty easy matches).

    In any case, can't wait for this match - it's gonna be amazing.

  16. I will be cheering for Fed all the way. I want him to equal that record. Her is such a gentleman and an extreamly classy player I would love for him to trounce Raf in straight sets.

  17. Oh enough with the classy thing. What a load of crock. Does classy make you a better tennis player? Should one support a player because he/she is "classier" than another?

    I just hope for a good match.

  18. Babz: totally agree about the classy thing. I'm tired of it.
    Rafanatics, I think you'll like this:
    It's in Spanish, though. Rich, I hope I'm not spamming. If I am, delete my post.
    Among other things, he says that he's afraid of the dark and the night and that, since he used to have trouble sleeping when he was little, he doesn't like to be home alone. I'm sure there will be a lot of Rafanatics willing to keep him company at night ;)

  19. Sorry didnt mean to intrude on the Rafa fan party LOL Ill keep those comments to myself in future.I hope its a classic match and let the best man win. Im not sure who will win, Rafa will need to have super recovery powers after his last match. If federer plays like he has the last two matches I think he might just get over the line but if he is a little off I think Rafa will sniff victory and run with it to the line.

  20. sarah i agree with u. as for people saying that class isnt part of what u should admire in a player, i suppose they should just eliminate all the sportmanship awards that exist. being an ambassador for a sport is a big deal, and federer has been a great one over the years. he is respected not only by all the players in tennis but players in every other sport. its funny how all the players show so much respect for federer (just read the press from the AO of roddick, safin, etc), but the people on this site (although i love the blog) are sometimes outright mean towards him.

  21. Listen to you. I never say a bad thing about Roger. I respect him for the player he is. Was I going on and on about Rafa? No. You were the one going all "classy gentleman is Roger therefore I support him". And you call this a rafa fan party. All I ask was, should that be a reason for supporting a player over another.

    If you're a Fed fan, so be it, good for you, let's hope for a great match and shake each other's hand in the end. But if you're a fed fan because he's "classy"? I don't think I'm the only one that thinks that's a load of crock. And I'm not speaking as a Rafa fan on that.

  22. Sorry I feel like we have gotten off on the wrong foot I didnt mean to make this into an argument and for that I apologise. Of course I like Feds for more than his apprent class and gentlemanness. I think it just must be a sensative topic for me because Feds has lost to Rafa so mnay times now.

  23. Rich, you were wrong!
    Rafa wins 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2!

    Rafa is the new King of Melbourne!!
    YES YES YES!!!

    I honestly didn't think he could pull it off after his 5 hour match against Tabasco, but he made it!

    I'm so freaking happy right now!
    The match was awesome! High Quality and extremely thrilling!

    What a great day for Rafanatics!
    Can't wait for the trophy-biting pics! LOL

  24. Rafans over the world, rejoice!

    great great GREAT match.

    I'm disappointed in Fed crying though, he should know to hold it in a little better? Oh well, I guess it's quite emotional.


  25. Sarah - I apologize too. It's a sensitive topic for me too, because ppl keep giving this crap about Roger is the better sportsman because he is classy and Nadal is the scruffy guy.

    Your man did not lose because he is lacking in abilities. I don't get all this Fed is better or Nadal is better crap. They are both great players of very different skills, it's impossible to tell who is better. I wish every player would get recognized for what they do on the court, not because of trivial things.

    I think what Roger said today at his speech, shows what kind of man he is. Don't give up Roger. I fully believe you can break Pete's record. You are that much of a champion to me.

    Yes, admittedly I am a Fedal fan

  26. And with that said...




    I'm still crying. Roger can cry however much he wants. This deserves a few (buckets) of tears.

  27. Babz, I'm a Fedal fan too. (And get hell for being one.) I'm sick of people writing Roger off or disregarding his achievements and abilities. Rafa sure didn't. In an excellent showing of sportsmanship, the same person who defeated Roger lifted his spirits up somewhat with kind and obviously SINCERE words and gestures. (Hopefully, their fans can do the same. Ohwels, wishful thinking.)

    These two are playing in a league of their own. No question that they are the best players that the game has ever seen. Roger's human, too and like Rafa said so himself... losing hurts; he KNOWS how it feels. They are both great champions and will forever go down in sports history as two of the greatest who had ever wielded a tennis racket.

  28. Q. A lot of us felt at the end of the fourth set that the momentum probably had swung back in your direction. How tough is Nadal in a fifth set?

    ROGER FEDERER: Tough like many other guys. You know, in a fifth set, anything can happen. That's the problem. Not usually the better player always wins. Just a matter of momentum sometimes.

    You know, maybe I should have never been there, you know, in the first place. But, I mean, I think he played well. You know, I definitely played a terrible fifth set, you know. I kind of handed it over to him.

    I mean, no doubt he's one of the tougher guys out there for a fifth set ‑ no doubt.

    Oh well, atleast you realize it dear Fed.Yeah, you were very giving in this final.It is now big Rafa blockade you have there.That's for sure.But all credits to Rafa, he played brave, and didn't give up, not even for a moment, he was going for the win.On the other hand as usual in finals against Rafa, I'm not quite sure for what is Fed going, yeah he tries to develop his game, but he always has so many ups and downs that all comes from his head.He losses his direction, even when he wins set,plays brilliant, in next set he's again lost with no reason,but his head.He wasn't believing enough in himself, and that's the problem for him right now only when playing Rafa.His game is there, but amount of unforced errors and some awful shots show his got mental blockade going on there.This fifth set was a joke basicly, and Fed has to work on getting rid of whatever issue playing Rafa he has.Like he doesn't trust his the better there.
    Beside that part, all congrats to Rafa for guts, braveness and stamina from wherever he pulled it!10 hours in two days, never stopped believing, champion!!And his speech showed the best rivalry there can be on tennis court, rivalry with great respect!His a great person, and tennis is lucky to have those two guys!

  29. I feel bad for Roger. Champions are never really satisfied and losses are always heartbreaking but he's already a legend and a Hall of Famer. I suppose the most heartbreaking thing for him will be the fact that he did have chances to take this title. I can't believe he had the chance to break Rafa twice at 0-40 and couldn't on either. He just seemed sort of stagnant and not energized and fighting like Rafa. He needs to relax, he wants the record too badly. Relax Roger your young, you'll get it.


  30. What a final. I knew Rafa could do it, I'm sooo proud of him! VAMOS!!!!

    He is a true champion and fighter, the way he hung in there, and then the sweet way he behaved during the trophy ceremony, consoling Fed and all... Who would not love this guy, seriously?!

    I felt kinda sorry for Fed having this whole breakdown though. Crying men have that affect on me. He seemed really shattered. But as Rafa said: He'll get over it, he will surely break the record. And as Tessa said - he's probably thinking about this too much. He has to find a way of playing for the competition again, not for the record books. Get a grip man, you'll do it!!

    Now let me get back to...

    *happy Rafa Oz Champ dance*


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