Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 26 JUNE
At the age of 35, four and a half years after his last Grand Slam victory and having missed the second half of 2016 because of a knee injury, the Swiss conjured up yet another piece of magic on a warm Sunday night in Melbourne to claim his 18th Grand Slam title.
Nadal, who’d had a day less to recover and who’d had the more physically demanding semi-final, taking five sets to beat Grigor Dimitrov, admitted he maybe lacked a little bit of speed but he still fought as he always does.
The first four sets were up and down – one player playing well while the other struggled, but the fifth was outstanding. After Federer took a medical timeout at the end of the fourth set, Nadal broke in the opening game and having fended off a few break points to lead 3-1, he looked on his way to victory. “I thought also for a second it’s probably not going to happen tonight,” Federer said. “But maybe I got lucky.”
But Federer, who had attacked throughout, hitting over his backhand far more than normal, was not done. He broke back for 2-3 and then at 4-3, he saw Nadal save four break points before finally getting the vital break, when a great return from Federer pushed Nadal wide and he netted a forehand.
Serving for the championship, the nerves kicked in and Nadal had two break points. But Federer saved the first with an ace, the second with a forehand winner and then, after missing his first match point, clinched victory when his forehand clipped the line. Nadal challenged, just to add to the drama, but the ball was in and Federer celebrated like it was his first Grand Slam, joy unconfined.
“I knew the forehand was in,” he said. “The emotions just come out and now you can celebrate in a massive way.”
Federer is the first man ever to win three of the four Grand Slams – Wimbledon, the US Open and Australian Open - five times or more and even in a moment of immense joy and satisfaction, he still found time to praise Nadal.
“I would have been happy to lose, too, to be honest,” Federer said. “The comeback was already fantastic. Tennis is a tough sport, there are no draws but if there were I’d have been happy to draw this one with Rafa.”
Nadal was disappointed to lose, of course, especially having been so close to a 15th Grand Slam title, but he was proud of his achievements, having recovered from the wrist injury which he suffered at the French Open last year, forcing him to miss Wimbledon and interrupt the rest of his season.
“I feel happy,” he said. “I played a great quality of tennis during the whole month that I have been playing. That's great news for me. The only goal for me is keep going. I believe that if I have my body in the right conditions, I can have a great year because I feel that I am playing well.”