Melbourne, Jan 29 : Roger Federer, considered the greatest player ever to a grace a tennis court, today won the Australian Open with a five-set win over arch-rival Rafael Nadal in a memorable finale to annexe his 18th Grand Slam trophy here.
Federer won 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 to lift his fifth at Melbourne and the first Major after the 2012 Wimbledon.
The final point came with a deep serve and crushing forehand follow-up shot that needed a 'Review'. As soon as it was shown in, an emotional Federer burst into tears of joy.
It was emotional for him, his family and the extended family of millions that has made him the most loved sporting icon of the 20th century.
Their rivalry has now transcended the sporting boundaries and that's why even the manic Nadal supporters, however disappointed they may be, will not begrudge the Swiss Master's 'Hour of Glory'. Federer is synonymous with self belief. He hung in all these years as he knew that the 18th was coming.
The mutual respect for each other was for everyone to see.
"I am out of words... I would like to congratulate Rafa on his amazing comeback. I don't think both of us believed that we are going to be in the final. I am happy for you (Nadal), I would have been happy to lose to you. Tennis is a tough sport, there is no draw but had there been one, I would have been happy to share it with Rafa today. Keep playing Rafa, tennis needs you," an exhausted Federer paid a fitting tribute.
It was a 'Battle of Attrition' and one needed to be better than the best. To appreciate Federer's greatness, one needed an opposition like Nadal, a legend in his own right, who would raise the bar so high, that their legacy will be difficult to match. Nadal's magnanimity was also unmatched.
"I worked very hard to be where I am today. Probably Roger deserved a little more than me today. I am just going to keep trying to be back at the very high level. I will keep trying to have that trophy with me," said the Man from Mallorca.
It was nerve-wracking 10th game of the final set. Federer was double break point down on his serve before he reeled off three points to get his first Championship point. Nadal got it back to deuce.
When the fifth set started, Nadal, an undisputed 'King of Marathon Matches' could definitely give himself a good chance of going for the kill. His unbelievable endurance that has seen him pull off some incredible five-setters at Majors including the semi-final against Grigor Dimitrov is a stuff of legends.
So a 2-0 lead to Nadal meant that the writing was on the wall. But then can anyone forget the Big W finals of 2008 and 2010? What happens when Nadal reaches home stretch.
But at the twilight of his career, the world's most revered and loved sporting icon would not have let it go without a final thrust. It came in the sixth game as he broke his archrival back to make it 3-3 and then held on to his serve to make it 4-3.
A bigger drama awaited as Federer dug the deepest into his reserves to make it 5-3, serving for the match.
Federer broke Nadal's serve in the seventh game of the first set and then clinched it at 6-4 with an ace.
However, Nadal's fighting qualities were at the fore as he broke Federer twice in the second set to take a 4-0 lead. It was difficult to make a comeback from there as the Spaniard won the set at 6-3.
Nadal was at his counter-punching best even as the Swiss maestro hit some incredible forehand cross-court shots amidst thunderous applause from a sell-out crowd at the Rod Laver arena.
It took some time for Federer to hold on to his service game at the beginning of the third set. It was a 10-minute first game.
However, he broke Nadal's serve in the next and just like the preceding set, did a reverse on Nadal to get a double break winning it on a canter at 6-1.
But Nadal was again back in the fourth with renewed vigour breaking Federer's serve early. Nadal was meeting the service early and hitting some great angles with his forehand cross-court forcing Federer to use every ounce of his energy.
There were some unforced errors by Federer as the backhand at crucial junctures went awry allowing Nadal to take the fourth set at 6-3 to take it to the fifth set. And the rest as they say is history.