An epic semifinal- Nadal vs Verdasco- Australian Open 2009
After Roger Federer dismantled the big-serving Andy Roddick in straight sets to enter fourth final of the Australian Open in his career, it was time for all-Spanish men’s semifinals. The semifinal was between Spain’s no .1 Rafael Nadal and Spain’s no. 2 Fernando Verdasco. On one hand, Nadal was the favorite amongst all to advance to the finals to meet Federer, whereas, Verdasco had a dismal record against Nadal, winning just one set in six previous meetings. However, he was in fine form after upsetting favorites like Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the way to his maiden Grand Slam semifinal.
On the match day, the temperature soared up to 43 Degree Celcius in Melbourne. The stadium was filled with Spanish supporters, in a majority, cheering for both the players. Both started first set confidently, holding their serves and eventually reaching the tie-break. Initially, Nadal pegged ahead in the tie-break, but with misfortune at the net cord and some daring hitting by Verdasco, Nadal lost the tie-break 4-7 and hence the first set. Nadal had 8 winners and 5 unforced errors against Verdasco’s 25 winners and 20 unforced errors.
After being slightly tentative in the first set, Nadal started the set with considerable calm, serving down two aces to close out the opening game on love. The actual problem began when he started losing games on love when Verdasco served and had to toil hard for his service games. Nadal saved two game points in the tenth game of the second set, one of which included an exceptional banana shot down the line. A backhand error by Verdasco and all of a sudden it was one-set all.
By the end of the second set, the match had already reached the two-hour mark, and it was speculated that it would go the distance. Nadal won the second set with great difficulty and the momentum shifted towards him. Both the players exchanged several service breaks after some gruesome and tiresome rallies and finally reached the tie-break where Verdasco played into Nadal’s forehand coupled with his unforced errors. Nadal closed out the third set tie-break with an ace down the T after having four set points and pumped the air with his fists.
After a brief break, when everybody thought that Nadal was going to run away in the fourth set, Verdasco had other plans. Verdasco served aces at will and got out of tricky situations with some booming serves. Nadal meanwhile had difficulties coping with Verdasco’s huge forehands. Verdasco held his serves comfortably even though he had to call his trainer for a problem in his left calf. Another tie-break was needed to settle the 4th set which Verdasco sprinted away with a 7-1 margin.
By then the match had already gone well over 4 hours and finally it moved into the deciding set. From there on, it was all battle of stamina and strength. Neither of the players showed any signs of tiredness and played with the same intensity which one saw throughout the match. In the fifth set, the same story continued where Verdasco served well when he needed it the most against the ever returning shot by Nadal. Nadal led 5-4 after coming from 0-30 in the previous game on his service. Clearly being the more aggressive one, Nadal managed to create 3 match points in the 10th game of the fifth set. Though Verdasco managed to save two match points, but a fourth double fault and the second in the same game gave Nadal a place in the finals of the Australian Open.
After some of the best and grueling rallies which took this incredible encounter past the previous mark for the longest men’s singles match at the Australian Open, the match ended in the world no 1’s favor. The match lasted for 5 hours and 14 minutes where Rafa won 193 points to Verdasco’s 192. In the post-match interview, Nadal said “I knew he was playing well. It was very tough. I didn’t think I played so bad but he was so aggressive all the time, served unbelievably. I don’t know about the final. It’s going to be a little bit tough. Roger is going to have a little advantage with one day’s rest and only three sets so he’s for sure the favourite but I’m going to try my best to recover.”
Unquestionably the greatest Australian Open match ever, both the players gave their 200 percent to be in the final which Nadal ultimately won 6-7, 6-4,7-6, 6-7, 6-4.