Nadal Reigns!

By Hiland Doolittle, February 1st, 2009

Rafael Nadal wins Australian Open 2009 Men's Title by defeating Roger Federer in the finalsRafael Nadal is the premier tennis player in the world. After a dominating performance against storied rival, number two seed and 13 time Grand Slam Champion, Roger Federer, the 22 year old Nadal solidly established himself as the world’s best tennis player with a stirring 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 triumph in the finals of the 2009 Australian Open. Both players thrilled the 15,000 fans at Rod Laver Arena with powerful shotmaking and clutch angled put away strokes.

As the match played out, Nadal’s ability to convert retrieves into winners put unexpected pressure on Federer. With the match on the line in the fifth set, Nadal was relentless. Just as he was in his five set semi-final win for the ages over Fernando Verdasco, Nadal played his best when the match was on the line. The intense pressure paid off for the Spaniard. Federer seemed hesitant and tentative as Nadal broke service in the pivotal fourth game and then secured the break with a love hold to make the score 4-1.

The feisty Spaniard is a compelling competitor. To the chagrin of his opponents, he often seems to be unaware of their presence. After his grueling 5 hour match with Verdasco, tennis experts wondered what toll the match would have in the final round. Nadal came out smoking. He powered his way to the first set and showed no ill affects from the brief one day rest between matches. With two days rest and perhaps a little too much time to strategize, Federer seemed slightly off his game.

Rafael solidified his well-deserved reputation as retriever extraordinaire and he refused to give in to Federer’s multi-faceted attack. Nadal did not give up on any shot. When points seemed over, he miraculously made saves and hit authoritative shots to get back in the point. With only 41 unforced errors in the match, Nadal consistently put pressure on Federer to make better and better shots.

Commentators noticed that Roger began moving around his backhand and often took himself out of position, opening the lanes for Nadal opportunities. Over his career, Federer has been a study in exquisitely controlled and adept groundstrokes. On this day, in this championship, Federer did hit more outright winners (71-50) and actually won one more point than Rafael. But, as he did throughout the Australian Open, Nadal once again proved to be the type player that does not go away easily. Verdasco and Federer both had statistical edges over the champion, but when all was said and done, the 22 year old with a long career ahead raised the year’s first Grand Slam trophy and fifth of his young career.

This was the Spaniard’s first Australian Open and this first final appearance in Melbourne. At 22, Rafael shows maturity and experience beyond his age. Always acknowledged as a clay court phenom, he now holds the 2009 Australian Open and the 2008 Wimbledon title as well as the 2008 French title. Generally regarded as a distracting opponent who takes his time between points and who takes control of the flow of the match, most professional players take offense at his demeanor. As the reigning Australian Open Champion and undisputed world number one, those traits will certainly not change.

Melbourne fans got their money’s worth in the semi-finals and finals. Nadal’s five hour Verdasco marathon exceeded five hours and is the longest match ever played in the Open while the final match against Federer closed in on five hours. Nadal does not seem dominant during the match. What is unmistakable is Rafael’s ability to drain his opponents. In these two highly-competitive matches, the Champion was clearly the better player at the end of each match. Players who are strong at the end, win titles. Congratulations to the strongest and most determined bull in the tennis ring!


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