Throwback to when Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer in epic five-set final at 2009 Australian Open 

Rafael Nadal with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after winning the 2009 Australian Open
Rafael Nadal with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after winning the 2009 Australian Open
Ewan West

In 2009, Rafael Nadal secured his first hardcourt Major crown by winning what remains his only Australian Open title. The great Spaniard has since been a runner-up four times at the Melbourne Grand Slam.

The Australian Open is Nadal's second most successful Major in terms of matches won (69), ahead of the US Open (64) and Wimbledon (53), and behind Roland Garros (105).


Nadal was the top seed at the 2009 Australian Open, having replaced great rival Roger Federer as World No. 1 in August of the previous year. He won eight titles during a stellar 2008 season, including the French Open, Wimbledon, Olympic singles gold in Beijing, and four Masters 1000 events.

The Spaniard's previous best Australian Open result was reaching the semifinals in 2008, where he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Prior to that, Nadal had made the last eight in 2007, the fourth round in 2005 and the third round on his Melbourne debut in 2004.

Rafael Nadal during his 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open
Rafael Nadal during his 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open

Novak Djokovic was the defending Australian Open champion in 2009, having beaten Tsonga to win his maiden Grand Slam title a year earlier.

Nadal storms through to semifinals

Despite not having reached the final of a hardcourt Grand Slam event at the time, Nadal made serene progress through his first five matches in Melbourne.

The then 22-year-old dispatched Belgian Christophe Rochus 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 in the opening round. Nadal followed that up with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Croatian Roko Karanusic, before seeing off German Tommy Haas 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in the third round.

The World No. 1 then met his first seeded opponent in the last 16 - Chilean Fernando Gonzalez. In a repeat of the 2008 Olympic gold medal match, Nadal once again prevailed in straight sets - downing the 13th seed 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

In the quarterfinals, the Spaniard faced No. 6 seed Gilles Simon - who he had lost to in an epic three-setter at the 2008 Madrid Masters three months prior. This time, Nadal defeated the Frenchman 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 to advance to the semifinals.

Gilles Simon and Rafael Nadal shake hands after their 2009 Australian Open quarterfinal
Gilles Simon and Rafael Nadal shake hands after their 2009 Australian Open quarterfinal

Semifinal: Rafael Nadal deafeats Verdasco 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-7(1), 6-4

Having reached the last four without losing a set or playing a tiebreak, Nadal met 25-year-old compatriot Fernando Verdasco for a place in the final. The World No. 1 had won all six of the pair's previous encounters, but Verdasco - who had downed Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - was a different proposition at this year's event.

No. 14 seed Verdasco sealed the opening set 7-4 in a tiebreak after being helped by a dead net cord at 5-4. Nadal then earned the first break of the match with Verdasco serving at 4-5 in the second set to level the battle. The older Spaniard twice recovered from being a break down in the third set to force a tiebreak, but Nadal won it convincingly - finishing with a forehand winner and an ace.

A third tiebreak was required to settle a tight fourth set in which neither player faced a break point. Verdasco produced an inspired sequence, which featured three forehand winners, to surge through the tiebreak losing just a single point.

In the deciding set, Nadal was unable to convert five break points in Verdasco's first four service games, before vitally holding from 0-30 down at 4-4. Verdasco then fell 0-40 behind at 4-5 and, after saving two match points, cruelly double faulted on the third - allowing Nadal to prevail in an incredible, five-hour-14-minute epic.


Final: Rafael Nadal defeats Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2

Two days later, Nadal met No. 2 seed Roger Federer - who had seen off Andy Roddick in straight sets in the last four - in the title match. The 22-year-old held a 12-6 record against his rival, including 4-2 in Grand Slams.

Federer was looking for a fourth Australian Open crown and a 14th Major to equal Pete Sampras' record, while Nadal was seeking a sixth Major.

After four breaks in the first seven games, the top seed earned a crucial fifth break for 6-5, before serving out the opening set. In the eighth game of the second set, the Swiss converted a fifth break point to go 5-3 up and sealed the set to even the contest.

A vital third set was decided on a tiebreak after Nadal saved six break points in his last two service games, and Federer saved a set point at 5-6. The Spaniard earned a crucial mini-break for 4-3, before Federer double faulted on set point.

After the pair exchanged early breaks in the fourth set, the Swiss saved five break points at 2-2, before striking in the following game en route to forcing a final set.

The World No. 1 broke through in the fourth game of the decider and sealed a monumental triumph on his third championship point when Federer fired long, serving at 2-5. Nadal had recovered remarkably from his brutal marathon against Verdasco to outlast his great rival in four hours and 23 minutes for his first Australian Open crown.


Edited by Nihal Taraporvala


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