The tennis world has witnessed epic clashes that redefine the bounds of what this sport can achieve. The Australian Open has captured a few matches that are insurmountable and a milestone in their own way. With Federer facing Marin Cilic in the Australian Open final on Sunday, we look at the best finals played under the Rod Laver Arena, over the years.
Australian Open final clashes
1) Djokovic-Nadal (2012)
In what is considered to be the best match in tennis history, Novak Djokovic outstripped Rafael Nadal in the longest match in Australian Open history and also the longest Grand Slam final in open era history. The running time for the Australian Open final clash was 5 hours and 53 minutes. “It showed what it takes to beat this top group of players. Truly fantastic match to watch. One of the greatest I’ve ever seen” marked Björn Borg.
This match was the third straight Djokovic vs Nadal grand slam final. The epic clash between the players who were in top form was so tight and intense that it was difficult to take eyes off the near six-hour affair. The match goes down in the books of history as the most memorable and talked about finals. Even Andre Agassi termed this final as ‘’ best tennis match ever in the men’s game.” Before this final, Novak Djokovic played his semi-final match against Andy Murray in a match lasting 4 hours and 50 minutes, and the signs of fatigue was evident as well.
The momentum switched several times during the game. The game could have been wrapped up in the fourth set, however, Nadal managed to usher a deciding set. He even went up a break in the fifth set but fell back immediately. The game looked like it could go either way. The crowd was torn. What wasn’t torn was the perseverance and grit shown by the two remarkable athletes. Nadal, who was sweating profusely, and Djokovic who looked equally weary desperately tried to hang on till the very end. It ended in Djokovic’s favour 5–7, 6–4, 6–2, 6–7(5–7), 7–5.
They both were enervated to the extent that chairs and bottles had to be brought out in aid during the presentation. Ever since the match was played, it has caught everyone’s mind and caused a major furore in the tennis world by also being the most viewed men’s tennis match.
In 2009, the young 23 year old Spaniard beat the maestro Roger Federer in a masterclass to become the first of his country to win the coveted Australian Open title 7-5 3-6 7-6 3-6 6-2. It is widely regarded as the best match until the 2012 final at the same event.
The 2009 Australian Open final stretched to the 5th set that clocked 4 hours and 23 minutes. This top quality match came after the 2008 Wimbledon final not so long ago.
Nadal denied Federer the chance to equal the then all-time leader in Grand Slams, Pete Sampras at 14. The win marked Nadal’s 6th major and his only Australian Open. Many consider this match as the best performance by Nadal, and the most shocking defeat of Federer.
Novak Djokovic successfully defended the Australian Open title in 2013 for the second consecutive time by beating Andy Murray 6–7(2–7), 7–6(7–3), 6–3, 6–2 in 2013. By this he became the first man in the open era to win the Australian Open title three consecutive and the third man to win it here for four times over all. Though Murray had improved his game manifold till then, Djokovic destroyed and wasted the game plan of Murray.
The young 21 year old Novak Djokovic was up against the 23 year old Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in the 2008 final that did not feature Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who made an exit in the semi-finals. Though the crowd payed a handsome amount of money to cheer for the ‘Fedal’ clash, the new entrants ensured the match was the ticket’s worth. The marathon match ended with the score 4–6, 6–4, 6–3, 7–6. It is widely considered to be the turning point for both of their the lives.
5) Azarenka – Li Na
Victoria Azarenka stepped on to the court with utmost confidence and a fire in the belly to defend the title against the Chinese Li Na. The Australian Open final ended with a score 4-6 6-4 6-3, with the win Vika retained her world no1 ranking in 2013. The win marked her resurgence to her top form and an indication of posing a threat to the dominance of Serena Williams and popularity of Maria Sharapova.