Rafael Nadal finally clinched the Australian Open title after a thrilling 5-set win over Switzerland's Roger Federer (7-5 3-6 7-6 3-6 6-2). The Spaniard thereby denied Federer a chance to equal Pete Sampras's record of 14 grand slam titles.
AFP - Rafael Nadal won a classic Australian Open final against Roger Federer to secure his first hard-court Grand Slam title and stop the Swiss equalling the all-time Majors record on Sunday.
The world number one recovered from his five-hour semi-final with Fernando Verdasco to take the gripping five-setter 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-2 in four hours and 23 minutes.
Federer remains on 13 Grand Slams, one behind Pete Sampras, and with an enduring mental block against the Spaniard who has now beaten him in their last three Grand Slam finals.
Nadal, the first Spanish male winner of the tournament, moves to six Grand Slams, increasing his lead at the top of the rankings and earning a shot at sweeping the season's majors.
Federer sprayed errors in a nervous start and double-faulted on break point before handing over the first set.
He continued to look uncomfortable in the second and he skied a forehand to go a break down, but then broke back and converted the fifth break point in a marathon eighth game.
Nadal saved six break points in the third with some nerveless tennis and he played the perfect tie-break, intercepting a backhand pass with a superb volley to set up three set points.
A switch in tactics brought immediate dividends as Federer swept through the fourth set but he tightened up in a tense decider and went a break down in the fourth game.
Federer saved two championship points at 5-2 and there was drama when a fan called "out" during a rally, causing the Swiss to stop playing and set up a third.
It was too much for Federer and he drove a forehand long as Nadal collapsed to the floor in delight.
The two were meeting for the first time since last year's epic Wimbledon final, when Nadal ended Federer's five-year hold on the trophy before deposing him as world number one.
They have now contested seven Grand Slam finals with Nadal holding a 5-2 edge in the meetings and 13-6 overall. But he had his last hard-court win over Federer in 2006 and had never reached a Grand Slam final on the surface.
Nadal was untouchable in the early rounds but was pushed all the way in a titanic semi-final with Verdasco, which wrapped up at 1:07 am on Saturday after a record five hours and 14 minutes.
Federer flirted with a shock exit to Tomas Berdych but then brutally exposed Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Roddick to reach his 18th Grand Slam final, one behind Ivan Lendl's record.
Nadal had just turned 19 when he won his first French Open in 2005 has not been beaten at the tournament since.
The one-time clay specialist has also reached the last three Wimbledon finals, making his breakthrough in July, and led the tour with a 46-10 record on hard courts last year.
Date created : 2009-02-01