Sunday, February 1, 2009

A match to remember down under

The rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was elevated into another stratosphere at the 2009 Australian Open Championship. The two gracious champions scrapped and clawed to fend one another off in a match for the ages. It was a match full of story-lines and turned out to be a worthy sequel to their Epic at Wimbledon last year. In the end, Nadal came out on top and tears flowed from the eyes of both remarkable athletes.

Federer entered the match seeking a 14th Major Championship, which would tie Pete Sampras for the most ever. Nadal was in search of his first Major Championship on a hard-court. Last year he destroyed Federer on the red clay of Roland Garos where he has won four straight French Opens. He followed that victory by overcoming Federer's dominance on grass at Wimbledon. Federer bounced back by winning his 13th Major at the US Open, setting up an opportunity to tie the record in Melbourne.

The match exceeded expectations for those who stayed awake during the early morning to watch. From the first game to the final game both men raised one another's level of play resulting in rallies full of "Ohhhs and Ahhhs" from the crowd. Nadal broke Federer three times in the first set to win 6-4. Roger would bounce back in the second set despite having a first serve percentage in the 30's. Both men hit winners from impossible angles and chased down balls with mind-boggling determination.

The third set looked as though Federer would take control as Nadal appeared to be feeling the effects of his five hour semi-final match. Trailing 0-30 Nadal battled back with two back-breaking rallies. He went on to win the third set 7-5. However, the match was far from over. Federer was down but not out and he stormed back to win the fourth set.

The stage was set for a fifth and final set. The record was in Federer's sight but in front of it stood the impeccable Nadal. They split the first two games but Nadal broke Federer in the third. The fifth set turned into a beat down as the sturdy Nadal let Federer self-destruct with countless unforced errors. The final point ended with Nadal falling to the ground and a distraught Federer standing in shock. The two men embraced and shed tears while speaking to the fans. When Federer and Nadal meet in Major Championships it becomes more then a tennis match. Both men carry themselves with class and humility. Beneath their calm demeanors are competitive spirits that made this a match to remember.

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