(image via Telegraph)
“I don’t think either of us believed we’d be in the finals,” Federer said afterwards before paying tribute to Nadal. “I’m happy for you. I would have been happy to lose, to be honest. The comeback was as perfect as it was.”
The pointy end of this tournament taught us that sometimes the fountain of youth is actually a mirage. When the favourites Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray stumbled to shock losses in week one, it really should have been a newer-generation top-10 player such as Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori or Dominic Thiem seizing this moment – or more likely battled-hardened Stan Wawrinka. Yet none had it in him. None had this in him.
All the while Federer and Nadal were essentially playing from memory but what temples of sporting genius their minds and bodies are. Nadal has beaten Federer so many times over the years some hesitate to call it a rivalry. Here the only shame, as ever, was the need to split them. Performing at this level in your prime is one thing; doing it as the lights dim is the mark of untouchable greatness.
A day earlier tickets were being hawked for up to A$16,000 – more than it cost to buy a house in Melbourne when the guest of honour, Rod Laver, won his last title and quite a premium on their original price range of $413 to $662.