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 the Doha quarter-final and made a better start in Melbourne. He toppled three rivals from outside the top-70 in straight sets to find himself in the last 16. The Spaniard ousted world no. 14 and former finalist Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the fourth round for another big step toward the trophy. World no. 8 Gilles Simon fell 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 in the quarter-final, 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 Nadal 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.
Rafael Nadal spent over nine hours on the court in the semis and final in 2009.
Nadal had to endure another marathon en route to the title, despite barely having anything left in his legs! A 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 to lift the trophy. The Spaniard had little time to recover following the semi-final clash. Still, he gave his best to make a good start against Roger and find the remaining pieces of strength left in his body.
Federer won one point more than Nadal, but not those that mattered the most in the decider. The Swiss lost serve seven times and converted six out of 19 break chances on the return! Roger stayed in touch with Rafa in the more extended points, but it was not enough to carry him home. Federer did well in the fourth set to claim it 6-3 and force a decider. Still, he lost the ground and allowed Rafa to emerge at the top and celebrate the title. Roger will retire Friday night at the Laver Cup in London, and Rafa will be his doubles partner.
“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.