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Melbourne Highlights - Day 14

by Alexandra Willis
Sunday 29 January 2012

It was a match the like of which just doesn't happen. Over five hours and 53 minutes, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal traded blows so intense that they had to be brought chairs to sit on during the trophy ceremony.

With Nadal knowing he had to make the first move against the Serb, who had beaten him in their previous six encounters, all of them tournament finals, the Spaniard sneaked his way to the first set, only to lose the next two in quicker succession. With Djokovic running on the fumes of his own self-confidence, leading 4-1 in the fourth set, it looked like this final would go the way of the Wimbledon and US Open finals, a four-set win for the Serb.

But Nadal battled back, somehow, surviving a break for rain, to snatch the fourth set in a tie-break, 7-5, and send the match into the first-ever fifth set between the world No.1 and world No.2.

Taking an early break, the momentum was all with Rafa, the roof of Rod Laver Arena threatening to blow open, so fervent were the crowd in their support. But Djokovic, and who knows how, broke back, and then broke again at 5-5.

Serving for the match, the Serb made no mistake on his first match point, falling to the ground in disbelief, throwing his shirt off and punching his chest like the Incredible Hulk.

Winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5, it was the longest Australian Open final, and the longest Australian Open match, in history, surpassing the previous four hours 14 minutes between Nadal and Fernando Verdasco in the 2009 semi-finals.

As Nadal sat in his chair with his towel around his head, contemplating how he had come so close to upsetting the extraordinary Serb, Djokovic finds himself holding three of the four majors, in what was his third Australian Open title, and fifth Grand Slam title. Only the French Open remains. It is set to be a fascinating 2012.

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The only other match of the day was the mixed doubles final, American Bethanie Mattek-Sands adding Grand Slam champion to her name as she and Romanian Horia Tecau defeated Leander Paes and Elena Vesnina 6-3, 5-7, 10-3.

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For all the reports and results from Melbourne Park, visit the Official Australian Open website


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