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Saturday, 11 January 2014

Heartbreaks & smiles - 5 best Rafael Nadal matches at Australian Open


A few days ago Star Sports showed the highlights of Australian Open 2009 and for those who had missed that tournament, even such bits and pieces were godsend. So while I was watching Rafael Nadal, conquering all odds and crushing the spirits of Fernando Verdasco and Roger Federer en route of clinching his first ever Australian Open trophy, my mind went back to some of the best matches in Melbourne, featuring Nadal. Some he won, some he lost - but these matches still stay fresh in the memories. 



5. Llyeton Hewitt def Rafael Nadal 7-6,7-6,6-2 in 2004 third round

Many regard the five setter fourth round encounter between Nadal and Hewitt in 2005 Australian Open as one of their best match-ups. This was undoubtedly superior to the 2004 meeting, but the latter one showcased the glimpses of the genius in making to the world. 'The Wonder Kid from Mallorca' was already making waves on the clay court and eventhough he lost to Hewitt, his unflinching attitude and aggressive play garnered high praises. 



4. Jo Wilfried Tsonga def Rafael Nadal 6-2,-3,6-2 2008 in semi-finals

Since 2004, Rafa progressed from a clay-court wonder to a serious challenger on hard courts. He was supposed to sail past Tsonga in the semi-finals, without any troubles and to grant us the dream final - Rafa vs Roger Federer (Federer eventually lost to Djokovic in the semis). But then Tsonga had other ideas. He completely blew Nadal away, outplaying him in every single aspect of the game. Winners blew past Rafa left and right, and the King of Clay was clueless against the power-packed attacking game of the French man. This match remains one of Tsonga's best performance in a grand slam.

3. Novak Djokovic def Rafael Nadal 5-7,6-4,6-2,6-7,7-5 in 2012  finals
Heartbreak, heartbreak and more heartbreak. For the admirers of Rafa, this match turned out exactly like the 2008 Wimbledon finals and 2009 Australian Open finals affected Roger Federer fans. Excitement, nerve-racking moments, nerve ending rallies, nail biting finish - this longest ever grand slam final was the epitome of a classic match.

After leading the final set with a break, Rafa went on to lose the title in a fashion that culminated his Novak-phobia. For a lesser player this would've been a career-ending defeat, but not for the Muscles from Mallorca. The King of Clay overcame his mental obstacles against Djokovic, and went on to conquer him on the 2012 French Open finals.

2. Rafael Nadal def Fernando Verdasco 6-7,6-4,7-6,6-7,6-4 in 2009 semi-finals
The heartbreak section is over, and now it's time for the best two matches that will always bring a smile to Rafa followers. Clearly, both matches are from Australian Open 2009, and there is no price for guessing who the winner was :)

Nadal was excepted to wrap up the semi-final against Verdasco in three or maximum four sets. But the other Spaniard had some different ideas and what happened next elevated this grueling 5 hour long hard-court battle to one of the best ever grand slam matches ever played. Two unstoppable forces battling it out and retrieving each and everything from the baseline - both Spaniards played their heart out and in the end only a single point separated Nadal and Verdasco.

1. Rafael Nadal def Roger Federer 7-5,3-6,7-6,3-6,6-2 in 2009 finals
One of the defining moments of Australian Open is the image of Roger Federer, with tears glistening down his face, saying 'Oh God, it's killing me' to the crowd and his tormentor -in-chief, Nadal, trying to consoling him. After the epic semi-final match against Verdasco, the King of Clay was supposed to be tired, but he showed immense mental and physical strength to defy the fight back of Federer in the final. This defeat was the final nail in the Roger-Rafa rivarly, sparking the 'end of the era' talks about Federer.

These are some of the best matches featuring Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open. What is your favorite match?

Image Courtesy : telegraph.co.uk

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