Forget Murray and Djokovic, Federer and Nadal are main men once again
Few people will forget the 2017 Australian Open in a hurry, the tournament when the old school dished out a lesson to the new generation.
In a throwback to a bygone era, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will contest this year’s Men’s final in Melbourne, while Venus and Serena Williams shared centre stage in the Women’s event.
It’s been almost 11 years since Federer and Nadal first duelled in a showpiece, back at the 2006 French Open, and in total, the duo have contested eight Slam finals, the last coming in Paris in 2011.
And that includes a trio of French Open & Wimbledon battles through 2006 to 2008, with the latter two contests at SW19 becoming the stuff of legend.
But the Swiss maestro is a not-so-sprightly 35, – turning 36 this June – while Nadal’s 30-year-old knees have given him repeated grief in recent years.
A quick trawl through the list of Grand Slam finals highlights how the red-dominance of Swiss and Spanish flags of Federer and Nadal have been replaced by the ice cool white and blue of Djokovic and Murray’s Serbian and British colours.
Of the last 16 spots available in Slam finals, Djoko and Murray have bagged 11 of them.
But not this time.
While the world number one and two crashed out to Mischa Zverev and Denis Istomin respectively, Federer and Nadal have defeated all comers.
The Fed-Express began with victories over Jurgen Melzer and Noah Rubin, before really making people take note with a straight sets win over Tomas Berdych.
Fifth seed Kei Nishikori was then downed in five in Round Four, and then Fededer did what Murray couldn’t, smashing Zverev with consummate ease.
A five-set thriller with Stan Wawrinka threatened to slide from his grasp, but eventually R-Fed came through unscathed.
All this after missing the last six months of last season with a knee injury. Not bad for a 35-year-old.
Nadal too, has rolled back the years. Starting with straight sets wins over Florian Mayer and Marcos Baghdatis, before powering through a brief scare against Alex Zverev in round three.
But that only seemed to spur the King of Clay on, and Gael Monfils and Milos Raonic were subsequently dispatched, with Rafa dropping a sole set.
And even a renewed and rejuvenated Grigor Dimitrov couldn’t crack the 30-year-old in the semi-finals, whose gripping five-set win completed the showdown the world wanted to see.
So, who will win this most surprising of finals?
Some will point to Nadal’s semi-final lasting just shy of five hours, plus the extra day’s rest that Federer has received.
But equally, the Spaniard has five years on his Swiss opponent.
And the head-to-head also leans toward a Nadal success, with the score-line reading 23-11 to the 2009 Aussie champion.
But with both men having to relinquish their dominance on the sport in recent years, and watch others take their place, you can be sure that whatever happens this weekend, Federer and Nadal will be relishing a return to the place where they feel they belong – the final of a Slam.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing