Qualifying begins: 20 June
The Draw: 24 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June
Order of Play: 26 June
Championships begin: 27 June
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 20 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.
His 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over his biggest rival, Rafael Nadal, gave him a fifth Australian Open crown, seven years after his last and completed perhaps the most remarkable comeback in tennis history.
“It’s a beautiful moment in my career,” Federer said in a TV interview. “The last seven, eight months have been great – the worst I ever felt was in the grass-court season because I knew my knee was not well, I knew I wouldn’t be at 100 percent for the biggest tournament in the world, then I would be out for the Olympics, US Open.
“Severin (Luthi, his long-time coach) said, you can win the Australian Open. I guess he was right.
“This one stands alone, it’s so different from all the others. I know this is a milestone in my career. Like winning the French Open in 2009, or going for my fifth Wimbledon.
"This one means a lot to me because he’s caused me a lot of problems over so many years so it’s good to get one.
“I couldn’t be happier. (Before the start), I would have said a great event would be quarters. That was before I had the draw. I went so much further than I thought I could. Then when you were in the semis and finals, you think maybe it’s possible. Then in the final, I just said, believe, fight and maybe get lucky. I really got lucky tonight.
“I did believe that I had the game and the mental and physical capabilities to do it again. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but if I look back at the last years, when I was fit, 2015, 2012, 2011, I was really close. I never lost belief.”
There can surely never have been more hype for a men’s match in the history of the game, the warrior Nadal trying to win his first Grand Slam title in almost three years against the returning genius, back after the longest injury absence of his career.
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.”