Ending all arguments, vintage Roger Federer has denied Rafael Nadal in a riveting, rollercoaster Australian Open final to become the oldest men’s grand slam champion in 45 years.
Defying Father Time and Nadal’s decade-long dominance of one of sport’s most enduring rivalries, Federer’s captivating 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 victory on Sunday night broke his five-year major title drought.
The 35-year-old’s extraordinary triumph – from a service break down in the deciding set and in his first tournament back after six months out to rehabilitate his surgically repaired left knee – earned the mighty Swiss a fifth Open crown and an incredible 18th slam.
Pulling four clear of Nadal and Pete Sampras on the all-time grand slam title leaderboard, Federer’s most improbable revival emphatically confirms his status as the sport’s greatest modern-day player.
n matching Jack Nicklaus’s magical 18 golf majors at an age most are long retired and his peers are at the peak of their own powers, the incomparable father of four also staked his own claim as possibly the greatest athlete of all time.
He’s undoubtedly the Pele, Ali, Nicklaus, Jordan or Bolt of tennis after crowning his spectacular comeback with his first grand slam win over Nadal since Wimbledon 2007.
Turning 36 in August, Federer is the oldest man to land a slam since Ken Rosewall won the 1972 Australian Open at 37.
His seven-year wait between his fourth and fifth Melbourne Park successes was also the longest in almost half a century of open-era tennis.
The rematch of their classic five-set final in Melbourne in 2009, won by Nadal, was the 35th instalment of their epic career series and ninth on one of tennis’s four biggest stages – but first in six years.
Officials took the unprecedented step of opening up Margaret Court Arena and telecasting the showstopper final on a big screen inside the 7500-seat stadium.
The two legends didn’t disappoint, Federer surviving a medical time-out before the deciding set and then, a 2-0 deficit, to prevail on his second championship point after three hours and 38 tension-filled minutes.