Climax with vintage Roger-Rafa show

Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal take to Rod Laver Arena to reprise one of the great sporting rivalries of the modern age on Sunday, a fitting climax to an Australian Open which has sent tennis back to the future.
Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal
Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal

Melbourne

Their ninth meeting in a Grand Slam final is all the sweeter for being so unexpected. Last October, as both men have recalled this week, Federer travelled to Mallorca for the opening of his friend’s new tennis academy. 
The Swiss was on “one leg” after knee surgery and the Spaniard still hampered by the wrist injury that wrecked his 2016 season. “At that moment, for sure we never thought that we had the chance to be in a final again, and especially in the first of the year,” recalled Nadal. 
“Both of us I think worked very hard to be where we are. It’s great that we are again in a moment like this.” 
As Nadal and Federer arrived at Melbourne Park as ninth and 17th seeds, therefore, the first drafts of the obituaries of two great sporting careers were being prepared. They were hurriedly dropped back into the files, however, as it became apparent the duo were playing vintage tennis: Federer all fluidity and peerless shot-making, Nadal at his brutal best from the baseline. 
The early departures of reigning champion Novak Djokovic and top seed Andy Murray, the players who had joined Federer and Nadal to make up the “Big Four”, then opened up the path to a grand final reunion. 
Although it has often felt more like 2007 than 2017 at Melbourne Park this week, even great champions are not immune to the ravages of time. At 35, Swiss Federer is the oldest men’s Grand Slam finalist since Ken Rosewall lost the U.S. Open final in 1974 at the age of 39. 
Nadal might be five years younger but has been on tour since his late teens and the effort required for his attritional playing style puts tremendous strain on his body. 
And while Federer has been able to rest up after his three-hour semi-final victory over Stan Wawrinka on Thursday, Nadal must recuperate as best he can after his epic five-hour victory over Grigor Dimitrov on Friday.

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