In a recent interview with Eurosport Tennis, Rafael Nadal recalled the 2009 Australian Open final against Roger Federer with fondness. He remarked that playing against the Swiss is always a special occasion and considered their emotional hug at the presentation ceremony "a moment to remember".
The 2009 Australian Open title marked the first Grand Slam the Spaniard achieved on hardcourt, as well as his first title at Melbourne Park. Seeded No. 1 at the tournament, the Mallorcan defeated second seed Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2 in an epic final.
At the presentation ceremony, a visibly upset Federer was in tears as he watched Nadal lift the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup. This led to one of the most heartwarming moments in the sport in recent memory, as the Mallorcan consoled the Swiss amidst cheers from the crowd.
In the interview, the 21-time Grand Slam champion regarded 2009 as a very special year for him because of his first victory in Australia.
"2009 was my most special year because that was when I won the first title [at the Australian Open]. It was a very emotional match as playing against [Roger] Federer is always special," Nadal said. "What happened during the ceremony was a moment to remember."
The 2009 Melbourne summer was unusually warm. The daily maximum temperature hit a record high of 34.7 degree celcius, nine degrees higher than normal.
The Spaniard came into the final after a marathon five-setter in the semifinal against compatriot Fernando Verdasco. The match lasted five hours and 14 minutes, leaving the former World No. 1 exhausted before the appointment with Federer. For all those reasons, Nadal considers his triumph to be a "very special victory".
"It was a complicated year because of the excessive heat and the end of the tournament was tough. But I also knew that the situation was not ideal. I was shattered from the semifinals but when I arrived on the court I felt better," Nadal said. "It was my first Grand Slam on a hardcourt and that made it even more special."
"Those were two very beautiful weeks at the 2017 Australian Open and the game between Roger Federer and I did not disappoint" - Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal also reminisced about the encounter with Roger Federer in the final of the 2017 Australian Open. The 35-year-old remarked that it was evident that fans wanted the pair to meet in the final, making for "two beautiful weeks" preceding the encounter.
"Those were two very beautiful weeks [at the 2017 Australian Open]. As the days passed, the fans wanted a final between Roger and I," the Spaniard said. "Both when he played and I played, I noticed the desire of the fans for that match to arrive."
Leading up to the tournament, both players were recovering from injuries -- Nadal from one to his wrist and Federer from one to his knee. Despite the 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 loss he suffered at the hands of the Swiss, Nadal said he regarded the match as a point of resurgence for both players.
Federer went on to win the Wimbledon Championships in 2017 as well, which was his 19th Major title. The other two Slams of the year -- the French Open and the US Open -- were won by the Mallorcan, for his 15th and 16th Grand Slam respectively. Furthermore, the 21-time Grand Slam champion also finished the year as the World No. 1, the first player above the age of 30 to achieve the feat.
"We both came from time off the tour and the game did not disappoint. Roger played at a very high level and I think it was a resurgence for both of us. He ended up winning but it was the start of a positive year. It helped me have one of my best years," the Spaniard said. "I won two Grand Slams and so did he. I also finished the year World No. 1 and that start to the year helped me for the future."