Rafael Nadal claimed his first Australian Open title in 2009, winning three of the previous four Majors and moving one step away from a career Grand Slam at 22! Nadal lost to Gael Monfils in Doha quarter-final and made a better start in Melbourne. He toppled three rivals from outside the top-70 in straight sets and found himself in the last 16. In the fourth round, the Spaniard ousted world no. 14 and a former finalist Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 for another big step toward the trophy. World no. 8 Gilles Simon fell in the quarter-final 6-2, 7-5, 7-5, and Nadal set the all-Spanish semi-final encounter with Fernando Verdasco. It turned into an epic one, as Rafa prevailed 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 after five hours and ten minutes in one of the most extraordinary encounters at Melbourne Park!
Nadal won one point more than Verdasco, serving well and getting broken twice from only four break chances offered to his compatriot. Verdasco gave his 120% to stay in touch with the world’s leading player, repelling 16 out of 20 break chances and pushing Rafa to the limits. The older Spaniard fired almost 100 winners and over 60 unforced errors, overpowering Rafa in the more extended exchanges but losing ground in the shortest ones up to four strokes. Starting all over in the decider, Rafa barely lost a point behind the initial shot, mounting the pressure on Fernando and earning a break at 5-4 following his opponent’s double fault to advance into the final.
In 2009, Rafael Nadal spent over nine hours on the court in the semis and final.
Nadal had to endure another marathon en route to the title, despite barely having anything left in his legs! The three-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer stood between Nadal and the sixth Major crown, with two great rivals facing each other for the first time at Melbourne Park. The encounter turned into an open war, and Nadal clinched a memorable 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 victory in four hours and 19 minutes and lifted the trophy. The Spaniard had little time to recover following the semi-final clash and did his best to make a good start against Roger. Nadal collected the remaining pieces of strength left in his body to cross the finish line first and enter the history books. Federer won one point more than Nadal, but not those that mattered the most in the decider. He lost serve seven times and converted six out of 19 break chances. Roger stayed in touch with Rafa in the more extended points, but it was not enough to carry him home, losing ground in the decider and allowing Nadal to reach the top and celebrate the title.
“I was exhausted ahead of the final, with little energy and flat reactions. Toni shared essential thoughts, and I needed to make a solid start, which I did. I dealt with fatigue and won the match somehow, feeling blown away for several days,” Rafael Nadal said.