written by Fabio Valente
Fedal: Chapter 35
Since their first clash back in 2004 in Miami, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (Fedal) have faced each other 34 times before flying to Melbourne and start their 2017 campaign. Despite not being amongst the favourites to win the title, the Spanish clay master and the Swiss champion took great advantage from this year’s fast surface conditions at the Australian Open, both reaching an unexpected final, the third for Rafa and the fifth for Roger in the first Slam of the year.
Coming back to play an ATP event after Wimbledon ’16, Roger Federer started his AO adventure as seed number 17, with little or less chances to clinch his 17th career Slam title. An hard-fought 4-setter vs Jürgen Melzer in the first round worried lots of Roger’s fans, as the swiss did not look as sharp as needed for a deep run in the tournament. As only an experienced champion can do, Roger surprised everyone again, winning vs Rubin and Berdych without losing a single set and setting a R16 tie vs seed number 5 Kei Nishikori. The match against the Japanese samurai was crucial as a focused, on-form Roger Federer took a fundamental win in 5-sets, scoring 83 winners and gaining more than 80% of his first serve points. An apparently easy win in straight sets vs Mischa Zverev and an astonishing performance vs Stan Wawrinka (defeated 6-3 in the 5th set), gave Roger the keys to a deserved final in Melbourne, with a chance to add another shining chapter to his majestic tennis story.
On the other side of the court, fighting for his 15th Slam title, there will be Rafa Nadal, seed number 9 and ranked 9th in the latest ATP rankings. The Spanish, who leads H2H vs Roger 23-11, has always been the toughest opponent for the Swiss, both on fast and slow courts. Rafa, who reached the final with easy wins vs Mayer, Baghdatis, Monfils, Raonic and convincing, hard-fought 5-sets battles vs Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov, rapidly adapted himself very well to Melbourne’s fast surfaces, proving to be a difficult contender for everyone on his path. Nadal himself, before the start of the event, admitted in an interview that the player he feared the most in the whole AO draw was Roger Federer: unluckily for him, and luckily for every tennis lover, the ultimate clash between the two champions is set to happen right in the last match of the tournament.
Stats say that the last match played between these two players ended with a win for the 35 year old Swiss, who was playing in front of his crowd in Basel’s final. However, Rafa Nadal has won six of their last eight meetings and leads their H2H in Slam matches with a surprising 9-2, 3-0 at the Australian Open. No one expected a new Fedal, but the dream final is now set up: both players know it will be a chance not to be wasted and the show will be guaranteed. Who is ready to read the 35th chapter of this neverending tale?