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Nadal Edges Federer In Five Set Thriller

Melbourne, Australia

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal and Roger Federer

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal won his first Australian Open crown and his sixth Grand Slam championship title by defeating No. 2 Roger Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2 on Sunday night in Melbourne.

Victory for Nadal, his 13th over Federer (13-6 record), denied the Swiss the chance to tie Pete Sampras’ all-time record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles – a feat he had been hoping to achieve in his 39th major championship.

Nadal now earns 2000 South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings points, virtually assuring the Spaniard a place at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals to be held at London’s O2 Arena in November. Only two of the past 20 Australian Open champions have failed to qualify for the season finale, while four of the past five Melbourne winners have gone on to triumph at the elite eight-man championship.

"[It is] very special for me," said Nadal. "[It] is a dream to win here, one Grand Slam on hard court. I worked very hard all my life to improve my tennis outside courts, well, outside of clay.

"[I am] very happy for the title. Today was really lot of emotions on court. I was there with the best player I ever saw, like is Roger.

"Everything was very special. [I am] sorry [that it] was a tough moment for Roger today. I know how tough it must be there in an important situation for him. But he's a great champion. He's the best. And he's, for sure, a very important person for our sport. So I'm sorry for him, but at the same time I congratulate him for everything."

It is the third straight time that Nadal has defeated Federer in a Grand Slam final, and the fifth time in seven clashes. The Spaniard crushed Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in the 2008 Roland Garros final (having also defeated him in the clay-court Grand Slam final the two previous years) before edging past him in an epic Wimbledon final that lasted four hours and 48 minutes – Nadal claimed victory 9-7 in the fifth set. Federer now slips to a 13-5 career mark in Grand Slam finals, with Nadal responsible for each of the five losses.

Nadal, who currently holds the Roland Garros, Wimbledon, Australian Open and Olympic titles, will bid for a career Grand Slam at the US Open later this year - where his best result was a semi-final finish in 2008 (l. to Murray).

Nadal becomes the 14th man in the Open Era to win three or more of the four Grand Slam titles and just the fourth man in history to win Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces.

Nadal's Win In Stats

At the age of 22 years and seven months, he is the second youngest man in the Open Era to have won six Grand Slam titles – Bjorn Borg at 22 years and one month was the youngest. He is one of just three players aged 22 or under in the Open Era to win three of the four Grand Slam titles.

Majorca native Nadal is the first Spanish singles champion at the Australian Open in the history of the tournament. He is also first left-hander to triumph since Petr Korda in 1998.

Nadal came into the final having triumphed in the longest ever Australian Open men’s singles match (five hours, 14 minutes) to defeat compatriot Fernando Verdasco in the semi-finals. In total he spent nine hours and 37 minutes on court in his final two matches. Goran Ivanisevic was the last player to win back-to-back five-set matches to win a Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2001 (d. Henman SF, d. Rafter F), while Mats Wilander was the last player to do so at the Australian Open, defeating Stefan Edberg in the semi-finals and Pat Cash in the final in 1988.

Iron Man Rafa Goes The Distance

At the end of the four-hour and 22-minute match on Sunday evening, Federer was left to rue only converting six of 19 break point chances – a statistic reminiscent of his losses to Nadal at 2008 Wimbledon, when he missed 12 of 13 break point chances, and at 2007 Roland Garros, when he made just one of 17 count.

"I had many chances. I missed them and they cost me dearly," confessed Federer. "It was a tough match. I don't think I served particularly well, unfortunately. And I think that was the key to the match in the end." Federer made 52 per cent of first serves and served six double faults.

"I think he had more mistakes than me in the fifth [set]," said Nadal. "I was more solid than Roger in the fifth [set]. For that reason I won the match. In the game when I had the first break, he made one important mistake with the backhand on the break point. That was very important for me."

During the presentation ceremony, with Rod Laver present, the emotional Federer could not get his words out and stepped away from the microphone. Once Nadal had received the trophy, he consoled the Swiss and encouraged him to return to the microphone to share his thoughts with the crowd - before later doing so himself.

"I love this game. It means the world to me, so it hurts when you lose," said Federer. "This is one of the matches in my career where I feel like I could have or should have won.

"But you can't go through your whole life as a tennis player taking every victory that's out there. But they hurt even more if you're that close, like at Wimbledon or like here at the Australian Open. So that's what's tough about it. But I have no regrets.

"In the first moment [afterwards] you're disappointed, you're shocked, you're sad then all of a sudden it overwhelms you. The problem is you can't go in the locker room and just take it easy and take a cold shower. You can't. You're stuck out there. It's the worst feeling."

Federer was looking to win his second straight Grand Slam title after capturing his 13th major title at the 2008 US Open with victory over Andy Murray. He was also bidding to become the fifth man in history to win four or more titles at the Australian Open, having previously titled at Melbourne Park in 2004 (d. Safin), 2006 (d. Baghdatis) and 2007 (d. F. Gonzalez).

The Basel native, who has appeared in 14 of the past 15 Grand Slam finals, is just the third man in history – alongside Australians Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver - to reach the final at least three times at all four Grand Slams.

Federer, who was ranked No. 1 in the world for a record 237 weeks, slipped to a 168-26 record in Grand Slam matches – sixth on the Open Era most match-wins list.

 

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