Swiss tennis star, Roger Federer has notched a record 18th Grand Slam title, edging long time rival, Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller for the Australian Open crown in Melbourne.
Both players tied two-sets apiece before the decider, which Federer won, wrapping proceedings 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 and thus shrugging off a decade of grand slam heartbreak against Rafa Nadal.
Nadal came into the match with a 9-3 edge over Federer in Grand Slam final rivalry.
Roared on by a partisan Rod Laver Arena crowd, Federer roared back from 3-1 down in the nerve-shredding final set before closing it out on the second championship point with a forehand winner to seal his fifth crown at Melbourne Park.
Seeded 17th and playing his first tour tournament after six months out of the game, Federer capped his brilliant comeback from injury with his first grand slam title since Wimbledon in 2012.
Federer drew first blood, breaking early in the opening set and dropping just four points on serve to take an early lead.
But, just as it appeared that Nadal, 30, may have been drained from a marathon five-set semifinal win over Grigor Dimitrov, the Spaniard struck back with a renewed fire. Nadal went straight for Federer’s backhand, resulting in 15 unforced errors and allowing Nadal to quickly jump ahead and close out the second set.
Then it was up to Federer to respond to the challenge. The 35-year-old, wasted no time, firing off winner after winner and racing to a rare 6-1 set victory.
Nadal fought right back with an efficient set of his own, denying Federer a chance to go home with the trophy early and capturing the momentum headed into the fifth.
In the decider, Nadal broke Federer early and all signs pointed to his 15th Grand Slam title. But, somehow, someway, Federer found his way back from the brink, breaking back down 2-3 in the fifth with a spectacular backhand winner followed by an errant forehand from Nadal. Seizing the moment, Federer quickly held at love and dug deep to break Nadal and serve for the match.
In what would be his final service game, Federer staved off two break points and won courtesy of a controversial forehand winner that was challenged by Nadal, but was ultimately called in.
The win made Federer the first player ever to win five titles at three different grand slams and at 35, the oldest grand slam winner since Ken Rosewall won the 1972 Australian Open at 37.
The victory was also Federer’s first over Nadal in a Grand Slam since the 2007 Wimbledon Final..
The Swiss, for many the greatest player of all time, celebrated with tears in his eyes but his first words were for his old friend and rival.
“Tennis is a tough sport, there are no draws in tennis but I would have been happy to accept one tonight and share it with Rafa,” he said.
“I would have been happy to lose to be honest, the comeback was as good as it was. I hope to see you next year but if not, then it was a wonderful year here and I couldn’t be happier tonight.”
Nadal, the 2009 champion, was also typically gracious after losing his third Melbourne final and coming up short in his bid for a 15th grand slam title.
“It was a great match and I think Roger probably deserved it a little more than me,” the 30-year-old said.
“I played a great quality of tennis. That’s great news for me. I believe that if I have my body in the right condition, I can have a great year.”
With reports by Busted Racquet and Reuters