Looking back at Rafael Nadal's lone Australian Open title
Rafael Nadal is one of five players in the Open Era to have completed the Career Grand Slam (winning all four Grand Slam tournaments over the course of one's career). Of the quintet of Rod Laver, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Nadal himself and Novak Djokovic to have done so, Nadal was the youngest to achieve the feat.
The Spaniard's tally of 19 Grand Slam titles is only one short of Federer's all-time record of 20. Nadal, along with Federer, are the only players to have played at least five finals at all the four Grand Slam tournaments.
With 61 match wins from 14 visits to the Australian Open, Nadal's win tally at the tournament is only behind his Big 3 peers Federer (97) and Djokovic (68) in the all-time list. Only at the US Open (64-11), Monte Carlo (71-5) and Roland Garros (93-2) has the Spaniard played or won more matches than at the Australian Open.
However, the 'Happy Slam' is also one of the few tournaments where Nadal has endured multiple final heartbreaks. Nadal's four final losses at the Australian Open is only one behind Andy Murray for most losses in title matches at the tournament in the Open Era.
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Nadal did have his happiest moment at the first Grand Slam tournament on the tennis calendar, when he won back-to-back five-set semifinals and finals to land his sole title at the tournament. On that note, let us take a flashback of Nadal's most memorable fortnight down under.
2009 Final: Beats Roger Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2
Making his fifth appearance at the Australian Open, a year on from his semifinal defeat to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Nadal did not drop a set as he returned to the last 4 stage of the tournament for the second time in as many years. That was where the going would get tough.
Playing his compatriot Fernando Verdasco for the seventh time, Nadal survived 95 winners and a near 5-hour long five-setter to reach the title match for the first time in Melbourne. In the other semifinal, Federer beat Andy Roddick in straight sets.
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The miles on Nadal's legs and the fact that Federer had an extra day of rest meant that the Swiss was the fresher player in the pair's first hardcourt Grand Slam final.
Federer overcame an erratic opening game to lead 4-2 30-15. But Nadal grabbed five of the next six games to take the opener, and then surged ahead by a break in the second.
The Swiss maestro finally responded by finding his best play at the opportune moment. He broke back from 2-3 down and made it a set apiece by reeling off 4 games on the trot.
Both players knew the third set held the key for the outcome of the match, more so for Nadal. The Spaniard survived all six break points to frustrate Federer before taking the set on a tiebreak.
Federer had to come from behind for the second time in the match.
The then 13-time Grand Slam winner was game for a fight, and he took the fourth set 6-3. But with the match entering a fifth hour, Federer's challenge finally wilted while serving at 1-2 down in the decider.
Although the Swiss legend saved a couple of championship points on serve, Nadal surged past the finish line by breaking Federer twice in the fifth set to become the first Spanish player to win the Australian Open and a hardcourt Major title.