The ‘King of Clay’, Rafael Nadal edged past the 20-year-old Greek lad, Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2 6-4 6-0 in the semifinals of the Australian Open 2019. Ten years ago, Rafa’s semifinal on the Rod Laver Arena was not a cakewalk as it was today. Nadal played a resonating semifinal match against his countryman, Fernando Verdasco on the same arena during the Australian Open 2009. The El Classico of tennis had kept the Australian audience amused till the final point of the match. Both the Spaniards went on to set up a record of the second longest match in Australian Open’s history and the match stretched out for 5 hours and 14 minutes.
The opening set extended to a tiebreak, and Verdasco sprinted to seize the first six points and eventually moved forward to seal the set. In the history of the Melbourne major, Verdasco’s tiebreak showdown was a splendid individual performance in a tiebreak. In the fourth-set tie-break, Verdasco captured the first point over a 21-shot long rally where the 19th shot of the rally from Verdasco’s end apparently defied the laws of physics. He closed out the rally with a deep topspin forehand on the corner of the no man’s land of the tennis court. Also, before that in the second set, Nadal slammed his ‘banana shot’ with his lasso forehand on Verdasco’s court.
Also, he thrivingly dismantled Nadal in the tiebreak and pushed the semifinal into the deciding set. In the fifth set, on Verdasco’s serve at 4-5, Rafa ascended 0-40 and gained triple match points. With Verdasco preserving two of those and double-faulting on the third one, sent Nadal into the finals of Australian Open 2009 with a 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4 victory over his compatriot at past 1:00 AM in the morning.
“In the last game, at 0-40, I started to cry,” Nadal said. “It was too much tension. Fernando was playing, I think, at his best level. He deserved this final, too.” Their phenomenal gameplay with a blend of emotions and a deep-rooted desire to win amongst the Spanish athletes gave rise to one of the best matches in the history of tennis. That day, both the left-handed ATP men from Spain had put up a memorable tennis show for the Australian crowd in the Melbourne Park. And, in less than two days after his exalting semifinal victory, Nadal became the first Spaniard to clinch an Australian Open title, where he defeated Roger Federer in the finals of the Australian Open 2009.