Roger Federer finally clinched an 18th grand slam title by winning a five-set thriller against Rafael Nadal to become Australian Open champion.
Federer and Nadal produced one of the finest contests their rivalry has ever seen but it was the Swiss that prevailed, winning 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 after three hours and 38 minutes inside Rod Laver Arena.
It means Federer has secured his fifth Melbourne crown and a first grand slam success since Wimbledon in 2012.
If this was to be the last grand slam duel between this pair, perhaps the two finest players the sport has ever seen, it was more than a fitting finale.
Nadal twice came back from a set down, and then led by a break in the fifth, but Federer drew on all his powers of brilliance to win one of the most unpredictable finals in recent memory.
Federer is now the first man in history to win five or more times at three different major events, and with 18 triumphs he extends his record as the most successful male player of all time.
His victory is also his first over Nadal at a grand slam since the Wimbledon final in 2007.
The 35-year-old’s achievement is all the more remarkable given he arrived in Melbourne having not played a single official match since Wimbledon, after taking the second half of 2016 off to recover from injury.
Federer had not expected to go past the fourth round but now he is the champion, capping a topsy-turvy tournament with arguably its greatest twist.
“I’m out of words,” an emotional Federer said on court afterwards. “I’d like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback.
“I’m happy for you. I would have been happy to lose too to be honest, the comeback was perfect as it was.
“Tennis is a tough sport. There are no draws but if there was going to be one tonight I would have been happy to share it with Rafa.”
For Nadal, this is the third time he has lost in the Australian Open final, having won here once in 2009, but the 30-year-old has made a resurgence of his own and looks ready to return to his best.
“Congratulations to Roger and all his team,” Nadal said.
“I fight a lot to be where I am today. Today was a great match and probably Roger deserved it a little bit more than me so I’m just gonna keep trying.
“I feel I am back at a very high level. I am gonna keep fighting for the whole season and keep trying to have this trophy with me.”
The first set carried added significance given Federer had beaten Nadal only twice in 35 meetings after losing it, and never at a grand slam.
A ringing mobile phone added to the tension and, after a slow start, Federer began to dial in too, as three booming backhands gave him the break for 4-3 and he served out with an ace to move one set to the good.
Just as Federer assumed control, however, Nadal wrestled it back, breaking once in the second and then again for a 4-0 lead.
He was peppering Federer’s backhand at every opportunity but it was the forehand that was creaking most and Nadal cruised through for one-set all.
Nadal could now smell his opponent’s insecurity and when two more forehands hit the net it seemed the Spaniard was sure to take charge.
Instead, Federer dug deep to hold and after being pinned against the ropes, the Swiss suddenly came out swinging.
He broke Nadal in the very next game, held in 63 seconds and, with his backhand singing, broke again for 5-1 and swiftly closed out the set.
Bewildered, Nadal had sent three rackets off to be restrung but into the fourth and the momentum swung again.
Perhaps Federer lost concentration because he wafted one short forehand wide, with the court at his mercy, and then framed another into the sky, allowing Nadal to break for 3-0. It was all Nadal needed to send the match to a decider.
Just as he had done in his semi-final against Stan Wawrinka, Federer left the court for a time-out, lasting almost seven minutes, for treatment on his leg.
Nadal had no intention of letting up. He broke in the first game of the fifth before staving off three break points with a series of stinging forehand winners.
Federer had the trainer on to massage his right thigh but he continued to pile the pressure on Nadal’s serve and finally broke back at 3-2 when another backhand ripped cross-court left his opponent powerless to respond.
Back in the driving seat, Federer held for 4-3 with a second-serve ace and then opened up 0-40 on Nadal’s serve when the Spaniard double-faulted.
Nadal battled back to deuce before Federer edged a pulsating 26-point rally, in which almost every shot seemed like a winner.
When a Nadal forehand missed, Federer finally converted his fifth break point of the game to move up 5-3 and serve for the match.
Nadal set nerves jangling when he had 0-30 but Federer clawed back to deuce. He had one match point but sent a forehand long before an ace out wide gave Federer a second match point.
He blasted off a forehand winner but before the cheers could start, Nadal challenged the call and the crowd held their breath. The review showed the shot had nicked the line and Federer’s remarkable victory was complete.
Federer v Nadal: Final statistics
Aces – 20 Double faults – 3 1st serve % in – 85/138 (62%) Win % on 1st serve – 65/85 (76%) Win % on 2nd serve – 26/53 (49%) Break points won – 6/20 (30%) Winners – 73 Unforced errors – 57
Aces – 4 Double faults – 3 1st serve % in – 110/151 (73%) Win % on 1st serve – 69/110 (63%) Win % on 2nd serve – 23/41 (56%) Break points won – 4/17 (24%) Winners – 35 Unforced errors – 28
Federer v Nadal: Tournament Statistics
- Correct after final
Sets won-lost: 21-7 Total games played: 266 Straight sets wins: 3 Four set wins: 1 Five set wins: 3 Tie-breaks won-lost: 1-1 Aces: 108 First serve % in: 63% Double faults: 18 First serve % won: 79% Second serve % won: 56% Break points won: 37/84 Break points saved: 35/51 Winners: 402 Winners against: 188 Unforced errors: 261 RAFAEL NADAL
Sets won-lost: 20-8 Total games played: 275 Straight sets wins: 3 Four set wins: 1 Five set wins: 2 Tie-breaks won-lost: 2-2 Aces: 40 First serve % in: 74% Double faults: 15 First serve % won: 73% Second serve % won: 62% Break points won: 31/94 Break points saved: 44/58 Winners: 255 Winners against: 271 Unforced errors: 217
Federer’s 18 Grand Slams
Details of Roger Federer’s 18 grand slam titles dating back almost 15 years.
Long touted as a future champion, Federer won his maiden title with a 7-6 (7/5) 6-2 7/6 (7/3) victory over surprise finalist Mark Philippoussis of Australia.
Australian Open 2004
Federer’s second title came at Melbourne Park with a 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 6-2 win over Russia’s Marat Safin.
Now established as the best player in the world, Federer dropped a set for the first time in a grand slam final but defeated Andy Roddick 4-6 7-5 7-6 (7/3) 6-4.
US Open 2004
Federer won his third grand slam title of the year in style with a 6-0 7-6 (7/3) 6-0 victory over Australian Lleyton Hewitt.
In a repeat of the final 12 months previously, Federer came out on top again against Roddick, winning 6-2 7-6 (7/2) 6-4.
US Open 2005
Federer ended Andre Agassi’s hopes of a ninth grand slam final aged 35 with a 6-3 2-6 7-6 (7/1) 6-1 victory in New York.
Australian Open 2006
Federer’s second title at Melbourne Park arrived courtesy of a 5-7 7-5 6-0 6-2 victory over Marcos Baghdatis.
After losing his first grand slam final to Rafael Nadal at the French Open, Federer gained revenge, winning 6-0 7-6 (7/5) 6-7 (2/7) 6-3 to claim his fourth straight Wimbledon title.
US Open 2006
Federer did the Wimbledon-US Open double for a third consecutive season, beating Roddick again 6-2 4-6 7-5 6-1.
Australian Open 2007
Federer reached double figures with a 7-6 6-4 6-4 victory over big-hitting Chilean Fernando Gonzalez.
Prior to Sunday’s triumph, Federer’s last grand slam final win over Nadal came in this five-set encounter at Wimbledon, the Swiss winning 7-6 (9/7) 4-6 7-6 (7/3) 2-6 6-2.
US Open 2007
Novak Djokovic reached his first grand slam final but was beaten 7-6 (7/4) 7-6 (7/2) 6-4 as Federer clinched his fourth successive US Open title.
US Open 2008
Federer lost in the finals of the French Open and Wimbledon to Nadal but ensured he won at least one slam title for a sixth straight year with a 6-2 7-5 6-2 win against Andy Murray in New York.
French Open 2009
In his fourth final at Roland Garros and with Nadal out of the way, Federer finally lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires, beating Nadal’s conqueror Robin Soderling 6-1 7-6 (7/1) 6-4.
Roddick came so close to finally beating Federer in a grand slam final but it was the Swiss who prevailed in an epic, winning 5-7 7-6 (8/6) 7-6 (7/5) 3-6 16-14.
Australian Open 2011
After going five slams without winning one, Federer added his 16th title with a 6-3 6-4 7-6 (13/11) victory over Murray.
Federer and Murray met again and it was the Swiss who crushed hopes of a historic home victory with a 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 win that had looked like it would bring his final slam title.
Federer v Nadal: Head-to-head record
- Scroll further down for full details of their classic encounters
- Updated after Australian Open 2017 final
Overall: Nadal 23-12 On hardcourts: Nadal 9-8 In Grand Slams: Nadal 9-3 In Australian Open: Nadal 3-1 In finals: Nadal 14-8
Federer v Nadal: Routes to the final
First Round Jurgen Melzer 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2 Aces: 19 Double faults: 1 1st serve % in: 64% Win % on 1st serve: 77% Win % on 2nd serve: 54% Break points won: 7/9 (78%) Break points saved: 1/4 (25%) Winners: 46 Winners against: 26 Unforced errors: 36
Second Round Noah Rubin 7-5 6-3 7-6 (7/3) Aces: 17 Double faults: 2 1st serve % in: 60% Win % on 1st serve: 82% Win % on 2nd serve: 56% Break points won: 3/8 (38%) Break points saved: 5/6 (83%) Winners: 48 Winners against: 19 Unforced errors: 41
Third Round Tomas Berdych 6-2 6-4 6-4 Aces: 8 Double faults: 2 1st serve % in: 59% Win % on 1st serve: 95% Win % on 2nd serve: 59% Break points won: 4/5 (80%) Break points saved: 0/0 Winners: 40 Winners against: 26 Unforced errors: 17
Fourth Round Kei Nishikori 6-7 (4/7) 6-4 6-1 4-6 6-3 Aces: 24 Double faults: 6 1st serve % in: 68% Win % on 1st serve: 80% Win % on 2nd serve: 48% Break points won: 7/18 (39%) Break points saved: 7/10 (70%) Winners: 83 Winners against: 42 Unforced errors: 47
Quarter-Final Mischa Zverev 6-1 7-5 6-2 Aces: 9 Double faults: 1 1st serve % in: 68% Win % on 1st serve: 69% Win % on 2nd serve: 68% Break points won: 6/15 (40%) Break points saved: 1/2 (50%) Winners: 65 Winners against: 30 Unforced errors: 13
Semi-Final Stan Wawrinka 7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3 Aces: 11 Double faults: 3 1st serve % in: 60% Win % on 1st serve: 72% Win % on 2nd serve: 58% Break points won: 4/9 (44%) Break points saved: 8/12 (77%) Winners: 47 Winners against: 45 Unforced errors: 50
First Round Florian Meyer 6-3 6-4 6-4 Aces: 6 Double faults: 0 1st serve % in: 70% Win % on 1st serve: 77% Win % on 2nd serve: 83% Break points won: 3/12 (25%) Break points saved: 0/0 Winners: 39 Winners against: 23 Unforced errors: 31
Second Round Marcos Baghdatis 6-3 6-1 6-3 Aces: 5 Double faults: 0 1st serve % in: 80% Win % on 1st serve: 72% Win % on 2nd serve: 63% Break points won: 6/16 (38%) Break points saved: 4/5 (80%) Winners: 32 Winners against: 20 Unforced errors: 33
Third Round Alexander Zverev 4-6 6-3 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 6-2 Aces: 11 Double faults: 4 1st serve % in: 75% Win % on 1st serve: 73% Win % on 2nd serve: 62% Break points won: 5/16 (31%) Break points saved: 5/7 (71%) Winners: 43 Winners against: 58 Unforced errors: 34
Fourth Round Gael Monfils 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4 Aces: 2 Double faults: 1 1st serve % in: 73% Win % on 1st serve: 72% Win % on 2nd serve: 63% Break points won: 6/17 (35%) Break points saved: 3/6 (50%) Winners: 21 Winners against: 52 Unforced errors: 27
Quarter-Finals Milos Raonic 6-4 7-6 (9/7) 6-4 Aces: 4 Double faults: 4 1st serve % in: 72% Win % on 1st serve: 83% Win % on 2nd serve: 52% Break points won: 2/3 (67%) Break points saved: 4/4 (100%) Winners: 40 Winners against: 39 Unforced errors: 21
Semi-Finals Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 5-7 7-6 (7/5) 6-7 (4/7) 6-4 Aces: 8 Double faults: 3 1st serve % in: 73% Win % on 1st serve: 69% Win % on 2nd serve: 55% Break points won: 5/13 (38%) Break points saved: 12/16 (75%) Winners: 45 Winners against: 79 Unforced errors: 43
Federer v Nadal: Classic matches
Sunday’s Australian Open final saw two of the great rivals in tennis meeting once again with a Grand Slam title on the line.
Here, we take a trip down memory lane to look back at six of their most memorable meetings.
Miami, 2005, F (outdoor hard) – Federer 2-6 6-7 7-6 6-3 6-1
In what was just their second match against each other, Federer came from two sets down to claim the Masters title in Miami. Already a multiple Grand Slam winner, Federer knew all about the rising star of Nadal, who had beaten him at the same venue 12 months earlier when he was only 17. Yet he was unable to fend off the teenager in the early stages and when he fell 4-1 down in the third set, the game looked up. However, using his greater experience to the maximum effect, Federer dug deep and managed to turn the match around, Nadal wilting in the final stages. This remained the only match Nadal had lost from two sets up until his 2015 US Open defeat to Fabio Fognini.
Rome, 2006, F (outdoor clay) – Nadal 6-7 7-6 6-4 2-6 7-6
The best claycourt match these two greats have played came not at Roland Garros but in the Eternal City. The contest certainly went on and on – it lasted more than five hours – but it kept an enthralled crowd on the edge of their seats. There was rarely little between the pair as they traded from the baseline, although Federer did have plenty of success when he came forward. The Swiss had the momentum when he took control in the fourth set. He went a break up in the decider but Nadal’s ability to run all day was already well known and he would not stay down. He did, however, stand on the brink at 5-6 15-40 only to save two match points and then claim the resultant tie-break, again after Federer led. The victory was Nadal’s 53rd in a row on the clay. His streak would finally stop at 81.
Wimbledon, 2007, F (outdoor grass) – Federer 7-6 (9/7) 4-6 7-6 (7/3) 2-6 6-2
Federer was in his absolute pomp, having won every grand slam outside the French Open for the last two years. Nadal, however, stretched him with a demon performance on Centre Court, before going down again in five sets. Federer was sublime in the decider and had to wipe away the tears as he celebrated equalling Bjorn Borg’s five Wimbledon triumphs.
Wimbledon, 2008, F (outdoor grass) – Nadal 6-4 6-4 6-7 6-7 9-7
For me, and many others, this is not only the greatest match Federer and Nadal have ever played but also the best tennis match of all time. Bar none. The quality was staggeringly high, reaching a peak in the fourth-set tie-break as Federer fought back from two sets down to level the match. With Nadal having missed two championship points – more accurately Federer saved them – the five-time defending champion looked the more likely winner heading into a decider which was interrupted by rain. The gloom was gathering when the players returned but on they went, both refusing to relent. Federer finally cracked in the 15th game. Nadal duly served out, clinching victory after four hours and 48 minutes of sensational tennis at 9.15pm.
Australian Open, 2009, F (outdoor hard) – Nadal 7-5 3-6 7-6 3-6 6-2
Six months on from their classic Wimbledon encounter came another epic in the Melbourne final. It actually challenged the SW19 clash in terms of quality – the high-bouncing hardcourt allowing both players to show off their full array of shotmaking skills. However, having twice fought back from a set down, Federer looked weary in the decider as Nadal took control, pushing on to add another notch to his tally of wins over Federer. Having previously taken Federer down on the clay and the grass, this win confirmed Nadal as the new king of the court.
Cincinnati, 2013, QF (outdoor hard) – Nadal 5-7 6-4 6-3
In more recent years, Federer-Nadal matches had been much-anticipated but often failed to live up to the high expectations created by what has gone before. However, this meeting was something of a ‘mini-classic’. Federer came into the clash in poor form but grabbed the first set, often driving through his backhand – a wing so often attacked by his nemesis. However, Nadal hit back as Federer’s error count rose. The Spaniard grabbed an early break in the final set and, despite Federer’s best efforts, held onto it throughout. Victory for Nadal made it 21 wins in 31 matches against his greatest rival.
Federer v Nadal: Previous Grand Slam finals
French Open, 2006 – Nadal wins 1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-4)
A 20-year-old Nadal became the first man to defeat Federer in a Grand Slam final. Federer only dropped one set leading up to the final, while the Spaniard dropped two. Nadal won the match 1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-4) to retain the title. It was his 60th consecutive victory on clay and maintained his undefeated record in the competition after he won it the previous year on his debut.
Wimbledon, 2006 – Federer wins 6-0 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (2-7) 6-3
The Swiss got revenge a few months earlier, as he ended a five-game losing streak against Nadal. The world number one prevailed in four sets, 6-0 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (2-7) 6-3, becoming the seventh man to win the tournament four times in a row. The Spaniard had only dropped serve twice on his way to the final but was broken three times in 25 minutes by an excellent Federer in the opening set.
French Open, 2007 – Nadal wins 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4
Nadal denied Federer the hope of completing the set of Grand Slam titles as he won a third consecutive French Open. He became the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the competition three years running. The Spaniard had beaten Federer the previous two years at Roland Garros, including the 2006 final. Again, he won in four sets – 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4.
Wimbledon, 2007 – Federer wins 7-6 (9-7) 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 6-2
History repeated itself as Federer gained revenge for his French Open final defeat. The Swiss defeated Nadal in the Wimbledon final for the second year running but this time it took five sets to earn his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title, which equalled Borg’s record there. Federer won 7-6 (9-7) 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 6-2 in his ninth successive Grand Slam final.
French Open, 2008 – Nadal wins 6-1 6-3 6-0
Nadal thrashed the world number one in straight sets to become only the seventh man to win a grand slam without dropping a single set, with Federer becoming the sixth person the year before at the Australian Open. The Swiss was left humiliated, winning only four games as Nadal blew him away 6-1 6-3 6-0 in an hour and 48 minutes.
Wimbledon, 2008 – Nadal wins 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (8-10) 9-7
Nadal won his first Wimbledon title 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (8-10) 9-7. Federer had won the competition five years running and had not lost a match on grass in 65 matches. The Spaniard won his second different Grand Slam title in a thrilling four-hour 48-minute contest.
Australian Open, 2009 – Nadal wins 7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-2
Nadal took his tally to five Grand Slam final victories over Federer as he won his first Australian Open 7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-2. Two days earlier, the 22-year-old Spaniard had just come through the longest match in Australian Open history as he defeated Fernando Verdasco in five sets in a contest which lasted five hours and 14 minutes.
French Open, 2011 – Nadal wins 7-5 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 6-1
Federer was in fine form as he ended Novak Djokovic’s 43-match unbeaten run in the semi-final. However, he was not good enough to win his second French Open, losing 7-5 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 6-1. It was a record-equalling sixth Roland Garros title for Nadal, who joined Borg in the history books.