Nadal beats Federer in classic to win Australian Open

By Emma Stoney,Pa
Sunday 01 February 2009 14:30

Rafael Nadal became the first Spaniard to win the Australian Open title after another epic battle with Roger Federer.

The 7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-2 win denied Federer his 14th grand slam title, meaning the Swiss world number two will have to wait a little longer to equal Pete Sampras' record.

Nadal, playing in his first final at Rod Laver Arena, has now won titles on all three surfaces following his repeated success at the French Open and his triumph against Federer in their thrilling encounter at Wimbledon last year.

In winning in Melbourne, Nadal became the first man to enjoy success on clay, grass and hardcourt since Andre Agassi.

His historic victory extends his run of success against the Swiss 27-year-old to 5-2 in grand slam finals too, something that must surely be starting to prey on the former world number one now.

Nadal, the current world number one, who took a record-breaking five hours 14 minutes to get past friend and Davis Cup team-mate Fernando Verdasco in the semi-final, showed the occasional sign of fatigue from that five-setter, having his right thigh massaged after the seventh and ninth games of the third set.

But with the adrenaline pumping and Federer tightening up in the fifth-set decider, Nadal dug deep to record his famous win.

Both players fought tooth and nail from the first ball, forcing each other to find that extra shot time and time again.

It was largely a battle from the baseline, although both showed some deft touches around the net when they did venture forward.

Federer in particular earned some easy points with well-placed drop shots but he did not always capitalise on them.

In fact, he only converted six of the 19 break point opportunities he had, a statistic which in the end came back to haunt him.

Nadal drew first blood taking the first set 7-5 but when Federer broke Nadal twice to take the next 6-3 the crowd settled in for the long haul.

The third set went to a tie breaker where Nadal pulled off a superb cross-court volley winner before a Federer double fault gave him the crucial two sets to one advantage.

But Federer came back in style in the fourth to break Nadal twice and force it into a deciding fifth set.

However, his backhand errors continued to haunt him and when he trailed 5-2 there was little hope of a comeback.

Federer, seeking a fourth Australian Open crown, got off to the worst possible start, dropping his serve in the opening game as a double fault, two wayward backhands and a loose forehand shot handed Nadal an early break.

But the second seed responded immediately, a combination of some blistering cross court winners, a lucky net cord and a couple of winning backhands helping to eventually convert three break point chances and he then held his next service game for a 3-2 lead.

Federer broke the Spaniard in the next game but he too failed to capitalise, allowing Nadal to break back immediately.

An easy service game got Nadal level at 4-4 and it remained with serve until the 11th game when the Spanish man produced a neat drop shot and a cracking forehand pass which put him 6-5 up with his serve to come.

He duly served it out to take the advantage.

Federer came out firing at the start of the second set and rattled off the first game, sealing it with an ace.

He tried to attack the net more in the early stages of the second with mixed success.

It failed at the start of Nadal's service game when he found the net with his backhand but he dabbed another over on the way to a 2-1 lead.

The Swiss player failed to capitalise on a break point opportunity though, and he was made to pay dearly in the next game when two blistering backhand winners from the Spaniard and a totally mis-timed forehand handed Nadal the break.

But once again, Federer was back on level terms immediately and in the eighth game, after spurning several chances, he took a 5-3 lead.

Another long return by Nadal in the next game handed Federer the second set 6-3.

The third went with serve right to a tie-break, although both players had opportunities to break.

Nadal eventually got the breakthrough when Federer sprayed a forehand wide and sealed it with his opponent's only double fault of the set.

The momentum swung back Federer's way in the fourth set when he broke Nadal in the second game to take a 2-0 lead, but again failed to hold serve as Nadal forced him into errors.

Nadal then held serve to level things at 2-2 before Federer found himself fighting off three break points in a game that eventually ran to six deuces.

The error finally came from Nadal and Federer escaped and he broke his Spanish rival again in the sixth game for a 5-2 lead.

Nadal held serve once more before Federer closed out the set 6-3 to send it into in a fifth-set decider.

Nadal raced to a 5-2 lead when Federer's backhand let him down repeatedly.

And staring down the barrel of defeat and with hopes of a record-equalling 14th major title slipping away, Federer fought off three championship points, but could not do it for a fourth time.

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