There is no doubt that anyone who would have said at the start of the 2017 season that the first grand slam final of 2017 would be contested between a 35-year-old man—who hadnot won a grand slam for more than 5 yearsand was returning to the tour after taking a break of 6 months—and a 30-year-old—who had suffered enough due to his rugged style of play, hadnot won a hard court tournament since 2014day of rest---would hold up. But we were not to be disappointed as we weretreated to arguably the greatest final since Australian Open 2012.
It is no doubt that men's tennis as a sport needs a lot of changes. The average viewing age of an ATP tennismatch is 61—up from 56 in 2006—and the frantic efforts by the ATP including the introduction of next-gen ATP finals that went to the extent of reducing the games in a set is a testament to the declining popularity of the traditional tennis format. In times like these, it was essential that something or someone make us realize that the old saying—"old is gold"—has a validity in these changing times. It was fitting then that that "something" turned out to be the Australian Open final of 2017 and those "someone" were none other than the very two people that took the very sport of tennis to its peak—their rivalry transcending the realm of tennis—and had now somehow come back from the dead ends of their careers to give us one final show.
oger came out all guns blazing as he took theopening set 6-4breaking in the 7th game using the combination of histopspin neo backhand and aggressive net play.Federer won a whopping93 percent of first serve pointsin the set and Rafa was left searching for answers. But being the fighter Rafa is, he rallied back to take a double break lead in the second set and though Federer broke back once, the Spaniardsecured the set 6-3.The culprit for the second set loss was Federer's winning percentage on the first serve dropped to 56 percent. The most important moment of the match came in the third set came whenFederer saved 3 break pointsin the opening game of the third set-all with aces out wide Federer eventually won theset 6-1 hitting an incredible 18 winners.Nadal took thefourth 6-3with the key stat being the 13 unforced errors coming of Roger's racquet---majority of them from the forehand side. Roger went off the court and took a medical timeout at the end of the 4th set. Many thought that the hope of an 18th Grand Slam for Roger would remain a dream givenhis poor record (1-5) in matches that went to a deciding setagainst the likes of Rafa and Novak in key matches. The demonsof losing to Rafa in 2008 Wimbledon final and 2009 Australian Openseemed to be getting the better of Roger ashe went down 1-3 in the 5thset having already squandered three break points in the previous Rafa service games. It was then that something clicked for Roger. He later confessed that he closed his eyes and said to himself to go for it. And go for it he did, as he hit aflurry of beautiful backhands in the 6th gameand when Rafa missed a forehand at break point it seemed as if Roger had finally broken free from the seemingly impenetrable jail of Rafa's game. Rafa saved 3 break points in the next game but when Roger won a 26 stroke gruesome rally—the best of the tournament—the gates were closed for Rafa. As Roger closed out the match with a forehand winner—a shot that was unsuccessfully challenged by Rafa—tears of joy rolled down Federer's cheeks and he jumped like a teenager who had won his first tournament. Roger Federer had not only defeated his arch nemesis in a historic final, he had made merealize that time travel was a possibilitybecause I felt like I was taken back to a time when I was a 10-year-old kid,watching the end of the 2007 Wimbledon final—the last time Roger defeated Rafa in a Grand Slam Final.
The match had enormous consequences with regard to the remainder of the tennis season in 2017. Not only did Roger went on to win 7 titles in the year—including a record-breaking 8th Wimbledon crown—he also went on to defeat Nadal in their next 3 head to head meetings. Nadal too went on to finish the year as world no.1 marked by his victories at the French Open and US Open. It can only be hoped that the 2017 Australian Open final was not their final meeting in a Grand Slam Final because when Roger and Rafa play against each other it is not just another tennis match but an equivalent of a magic show in the eyes of us tennis fans.