Roger Federer did it again. The Swiss maestro turned back time winning his 18th career Grand Slam title beating rival Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the men’s singles final at the Australian Open Sunday night in Melbourne.
Federer was not thought of as a true contender to the title after missing six months due to injury. But Federer surprised everyone including himself in beating four Top 10 players and winning three five set matches culminating with a victory over Nadal, snapping a 6-match Slam losing streak to the Spaniard.
Federer stunned Nadal overcoming a 3-1 final set deficit breaking Nadal twice to win the last five games of the match and secure his fifth Australian Open title and his first their since 2010.
After the big win, an emotional Federer spoke to the press.
Q. Does it mean a lot to you to put some more distance between you and your greatest rivals with this title?
ROGER FEDERER: That’s the smallest part, to be honest. For me it’s all about the comeback, about an epic match with Rafa again. Doing it here in Australia, that I’m so thankful to Peter Carter and Tony Roche, and just people… I guess my popularity here, their support, that I can still do it at my age after not having won a slam for almost five years.
That’s what I see. The last problem is the slam count. Honestly, it doesn’t matter.
Q. Had you ever envisioned winning a Grand Slam on a challenge?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I guess I’ve been there before at some point. I can’t tell you which finals or — not a finals maybe, but some matches end this way. So we’ve seen it before.
I mean, you have to challenge it. If you’re Rafa, what other option do you have? Good would have been if he had gotten there, played the lob, and then challenged. Then it’s at least replay the point, isn’t it?
Of course, it’s slightly awkward to win this way. Nevertheless, emotions poured out of me. I was incredibly happy, as you can imagine. Then, of course, I was also seeing my entire support team, Mirka, everybody else going bananas. It was cool.
I knew from that point on, like, I actually did really win. That was a great feeling.
Q. Winning 18 would have been special regardless of where you had done it. Can you tell us how special it is doing it here in Australia.
ROGER FEDERER: Like you said, I think it would have been special regardless of where it was going to be. Look, this is a tournament I’ve not missed. I’ve not missed the French. I’ve missed the US Open last year. This is the one I guess that is my most consistent slam potentially.
It all started for me here. I played the quallies here in ’99, the juniors in ’98. Won my first match maybe against Michael Chang here back in 2000. I go way back. Always loved coming here, you know.
When you win down here, the journey home is not a problem. When you lose, it’s just brutal. That’s why I feel very fortunate tonight.
Q. After the semifinal you touched upon the fact that you might have tensed up a little in the final set. How were you able to focus coming from a break down?
ROGER FEDERER: I told myself to play free. That’s what we discussed with Ivan and Severin before the matches. You play the ball, you don’t play the opponent. Be free in your head, be free in your shots, go for it. The brave will be rewarded here. I didn’t want to go down just making shots, seeing forehands rain down on me from Rafa. I think it was the right decision at the right time.
I had opportunities early on in the fifth, as well, to get back on even terms. I could have been left disappointed there and accepted that fact. I kept on fighting. I kept on believing, like I did all match long today, that there was a possibility I could win this match.
I think that’s what made me play my best tennis at the very end the match, which was actually surprising to me. I went through a little bit of a lull in the fourth and the beginning of the fifth set.
Q. I assume it’s fair to say he’s your greatest rival. What does it mean to win this against him?
ROGER FEDERER: We go furthest back, you know. Novak also has been one of my biggest rivals. So have Roddick and Hewitt. I don’t like to leave anybody out, to be honest. But I’m sure I’ve left a couple out. They know who they are.
But Rafa definitely has been very particular in my career. I think he made me a better player. Him and a couple more players have done the most to do that to me because the way his game stacks up with me, it’s a tricky one. I’ve said that openly. It remains for me the ultimate challenge to play against him. So it’s definitely very special.
I said that also before the finals: if I were to win against Rafa, it would be super special and very sweet because I haven’t beaten him in a Grand Slam final for a long, long time now. Last time I guess was 2007 at Wimbledon in a five-setter. Now I was able to do it again.
We’re both on a comeback. Like I said on the court, it would have been nice for both of us to win, but there’s no draws in tennis. It’s brutal sometimes.
He should be happy. I would have been happy again to be in the finals, like I said on the court. I think this one will take more time to sink in. When I go back to Switzerland, I’ll think, Wow.
The magnitude of this match is going to feel different. I can’t compare this one to any other one except for maybe the French Open in ’09. I waited for the French Open, I tried, I fought. I tried again and failed. Eventually I made it. This feels similar, yeah.
Q. Millions of people across the world saw this match. This tournament has been so wonderful with you, Rafa, Venus, Serena. Do you see this as a kind of celebration of spirit? In some uncertain times now, an event like this can help people and pick people’s spirits up.
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I don’t know to what extent. At the end of the day, it remains sports. But sports is a powerful tool. Makes a lot of people happy. They forget about their sorrows sometimes. Not always, though, clearly.
But I feel like finals of this magnitude, big Masters 1000s, World Tour Finals, you name it, they are supposed to be a celebration of tennis. That’s why I think it’s so nice again, to have Rod Laver out on the podium. For us, I was expecting Ashley-Cooper. But Rocket’s okay, too, I guess.
It is, at the end, regardless of the outcome of the match, it’s like a Super Bowl, whatever it is, it is tennis that is at front and center.
I’m happy we were represented that well tonight with Rafa. He’s always great. That’s why I hope he’s still going to be in the game for a long time and represent the way he does.
Q. This is your first Grand Slam with Ivan Ljubicic coaching you. What does it mean to you?
ROGER FEDERER: It’s obviously special for the entire team. It was his first Grand Slam final as a player or as a coach. Obviously he was nervous all day. I tried to calm him down (smiling). The same thing with my physio, too. I think I can sense that this is not something that he’s seen so many times. Where Severin, he was totally relaxed about it.
It’s beautiful for all of us. I know how happy they are because they are more than just a coach or a physio or whatever. They’re all my friends. So we spent a lot of time, you know, talking about am I going to get back to 100%, and if I did, what would it require to win a Grand Slam.
Now we made it. We’re going to be partying like rock stars tonight. I can tell you that.
Q. The medical timeout, there were some quite adverse comments about that.
ROGER FEDERER: What is ‘adverse comments’?
Q. Critical comments. I think Pat Cash said it was legalized cheating. Can you tell us what was going on there, what the reason was.
ROGER FEDERER: Look, I mean, I explained myself a couple of days ago after the Stan match. Yeah, my leg has been hurting me since the Rubin match. I was happy that I was able to navigate through the pain. For some reason against Stan I had it from the start on both sides of the groin.
After he took a medical timeout, I thought I could also take one for a change and see if actually something like a massage during the match is actually going to help me. It did a little bit potentially. I’m not sure.
And then today after probably — well, I felt my quad midway through the second set already, and the groin started to hurt midway through the third set. I just told myself, The rules are there that you can use them. I also think we shouldn’t be using these rules or abusing the system. I think I’ve led the way for 20 years.
So I think to be critical there is exaggerating. I’m the last guy to call a medical timeout. So I don’t know what he’s talking about.
Q. We know you’ve been asked about retirement for about 10 years now.
ROGER FEDERER: Seven.
Q. Your comment on the court where you said, If I’m back next year, it does invite some comment on that. How much should we read into what you said there?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, this is all about, you know, knowing that I have only so much tennis left in me. If I do get injured, you know, maybe if I miss next year. Who knows what happens.
So it was just a way… You never know when your next Grand Slam is going to be, if ever. You never know if you’re going to have an opportunity at this stage, I felt I could thank so many people at once. It’s a live audience. It’s a moment for me to be appreciative of them.
Yeah, I mean, look, I’ve had a tough year last year. Three five-setters are not going to help. I just meant it the way I meant it. There wasn’t something planned behind it, that this is my last Australian Open. I hope can I come back, of course. That’s my hope right now.
Q. You touched on it before briefly. How does Roger Federer at your age celebrate tonight?
ROGER FEDERER: I’m a bit more experienced about it. You know, I just don’t show up and look for something. We’ve organized a party. The good thing is always to have enough people around to make a party. I have a lot of friends over here now. Made a lot of friends also locally. Then also a lot of people have just been on this trip for some time now. So we’re going to be about, I don’t know, 20, 30, 40 people depending. It’s better to party in a big bunch than all alone with one glass of champagne. I’m sure it’s going to be good fun.
I liked the days when we had the day finals, like 2004, so it wouldn’t would be almost 2:00. I still have doping to do. I have a bit of pressure to get that done.