An unforgettable evening

Saturday, 18 February 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



The Australia Open tennis tournament is eagerly looked forward to by sports fans not only in Australia but the world over. Being held in January it kicks off the year’s sports and attracts all the top players who are fresh and eager to start another year with a bang. 

This year was special. The big names were all there. Roger Federer who had laid off due to injury for six months was back. So was Rafael Nadal. Federer was the star attraction. The cheers he got every time he played a match or spotted in the Melbourne Park where the games were played, symbolised his popularity. He is so amiable, unruffled and always with a smile. Last year’s No.1 Andy Murray led the list of champions. With Murray and Djokovic losing their early games the fans were hoping for a Nadal/ Federer final. And it happened that way.Untitled-7

A record 4.4 million watched the game on television. 15,000 fans were in the Rod Laver Arena. It turned out to be “fantasy final thriller”. Some dubbed it as an “Oldies final” – Federer being 35 and Nadal 30 were called “the grand old men of the game”. The oldest to win the Australian Open final was Australia’s Ken Rosewall in 1972. He was 37.

Federer was introduced as “an effortlessly hard-hitting father of four” while Nadal was “the super-fit Spaniard”. 

The fans got their money’s worth. They couldn’t ask for anything better. The battle went on for three hours and 38 minutes. Federer fought back in the fifth set to knock off his friend and rival Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. 

Writing in ‘The Australian’ that “in the tennis world, simply put, the 30s are the new 20s”, sports writer Simon King commented on Federer’s victory: “The number crunchers have pointed to the class with which the Swiss superstar cut his way through the game’s elite and reminded the doubters of his credentials as the sport’s greatest modern-day player. He was the first No.17 seed to win a grand slam title since Pete Sampras knocked over his great rival Andre Agassi at the US Open in 2002. And in beating Thomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori (No 5), and Stan Wawrinka (No 4) in earlier rounds, plus Nadal (No 9), he also became the first man to beat four top-10 seeds on his way to winning a grand slam title since a 17-year-old Mats Wilander at the 1982 French Open.”

He summed up: “Federer’s return to supremacy after four years highlights how old heads now easily outshine young guns. The game has changed. Power and big racquets have replaced touch and finesse and the old serve and volleyer is now the baseline power blaster.”

Rod Laver, the Australian tennis great after whom the Arena has been named, was there virtually throughout the tournament. Obviously a great fan of Federer, before the final he told the media that he wished he would be able to hand over the trophy to Federer. He got his chance. 

The way the two rivals complimented each other was a fine example to all sportsmen and sportswomen. Calling it a great match where “probably Roger deserved it a bit more than me,” Nadal said: “It’s just amazing the way he’s playing after such a long time without being on the tour and that’s just very difficult what happened. Well done. I feel very happy for him.” 

Federer responded by urging Nadal to continue seeking another major. “Stay on the tour. Keep playing, Rafa, please. Tennis needs you. Thanks very much for everything you do.” He added that he wished here was a draw in a game of tennis – then he could have shared the trophy with Nadal.


Federer’s records

  • Australian Open win is his 18th grand slam crown – four more than any other. Came in his 28th grand slam decider – another record
  • At 35 years of age, oldest winner in 45 years
  • Win came in his 100th Australian Open match – the third-most of any male player
  • First player in history to win three of the grand slams at least five times – Wimbledon 7, Australian Open 5, US Open 5
  • $3.7 million prize money at Australian Open 2017 takes him beyond $100 million in career earnings – second after Djokovic