Top five greatest Australian Open men’s finals
The Australian Open has produced much tennis brilliance over the years. Join us for a look at the most exciting men’s finals.
1987 – Stefan Edberg defeats Pat Cash 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3
Since its establishment in 1905 the Australian Open had always been played on grass, but 1987 was the last year that took place.
After a first round bye, fourth seeded Edberg had steamrollered his opponents for the loss of just one set over five matches. The home favourite and 11th seeded Cash had had a tougher time of it, failing to win any of his five matches in straight sets, winning four in four sets and one in five sets against Paul Annacone in the fourth round.
Edberg was the defending champion, having defeated fellow Swede Mats Wilander in the 1985 final (there was no competition in 1986 due to a date change for the tournament. Meanwhile Cash was competing in his first Slam final and held a 1-1 record against Edberg.
But the home crowd’s hopes of a first men’s champion since 1976 looked to have crashed and burned as Edberg took a two set to love lead. However, Cash was far from done, dragging the tie to a decider by claiming the next two sets.
Edberg was too strong for Cash in the end as he successfully defended his title, his second of six eventual Major titles singles titles.
1988 – Mats Wilander defeats Pat Cash 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 3-6, 6-1, 8-6
Another year another Swede as 1985 finalist Wilander returned to the championship match in Melbourne on the newly inaugurated hard courts of Flinders Park. Both he and Cash came through their all five of their matches before the semi-finals in straight sets.
In the last four it was a battle between the top four seeds as first seeded Ivan Lendl took on fourth seeded Cash and third seeded Wilander faced two-time defending champion Edberg. Both encounters went the distance with Cash and Wilander coming out on top. Both had been to the final before, Wilander three times in 1983, 1984 and 1985, and Cash once in 1987.
Cash had gained experience since then though, claiming his first Slam title at Wimbledon in 1987, and had defeated Wilander in the quarter-finals there. While Wilander took the upper hand by securing the first set, Cash roared back to go up two sets to one, one set from glory.
But the Swede accelerated to snatch the fourth 6-1 before digging deep in the decider to complete the victory, his third triumph in Melbourne and fifth Slam title overall.
Neither man would reach the Australian Open final again, but Wilander did add two more Major titles to his name, coming at Roland Garros and the US Open that same year.
2009 – Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 6-2
It was another 21 years before a men’s final went a full five sets, and boy was it a final that lived up to that status.
Federer and Nadal had contested six of the last 12 Slam finals entering 2009, but they had never previously played each other at the Australian Open. Nadal fought through to the semi-finals without dropping a set, while Federer faced his first big challenge in the fourth round, defeating 20th seed Tomas Berdych from two sets to love down.
In the last four Nadal played an epic with fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, eventually defeating his compatriot 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (1-7), 6-4 after over five hours on-court. By contrast, Federer ousted Andy Roddick in straight sets in his semi-final, so surely he would be the better equipped for the final?
But it was Nadal who got off to the better start, winning the opener 7-5 before Federer levelled at a set each. Nadal edged the third in a tiebreak before Federer responded once more.
Nadal finally won out 6-2 in the fifth after nearly four and a half hours on-court as the Spaniard had played nearly 10 hours of tennis across just two matches. It was his sixth Major title and first at the Australian Open.
2012 – Novak Djokovic defeats Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5
From one marathon effort to another, the men’s final in 2012 was on another level. Djokovic had won back-to-back Slam titles to end 2011 and take the world number one ranking from Nadal, defeating the Spaniard in the final of both Wimbledon and the US Open.
Now the Serb was looking for a fourth Major title and second in Melbourne, while the latter was also true for Nadal. Both men lost just one set en route to the semi-finals as Djokovic booked a meeting with world number four Andy Murray as Nadal faced familiar foe Federer.
Djokovic came through in five sets while Nadal did in four to set a 30th meeting between the two and third consecutively in a Slam final. The match that then played out will go down in history as one of the most epic Slam finals ever and stands as the longest Slam final by time on-court at time of publication.
The two finalists battled tooth and nail for five hours and 53 minutes on-court before Djokovic emerged the victor, his second of nine Australian Open titles to date and potentially more to come.
The 2012 final is also the longest Australian Open match ever played outright, not just among finals.
2017 – Roger Federer defeats Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
Eight years on from their 2009 final epic, Nadal and Federer met for the title once more. Federer had added four more Majors since then to sit on 17 while Nadal had accumulated eight for a tally of 14. Both had also completed the Career Grand Slam, Federer in 2009 and Nadal in 2010.
The pair had not met in a Slam final for nearly six years, the last occasion being the Roland Garros final of 2011. While the match-up was a familiar sight from the 2000s, their route to the final was not.
Used to being among at least the top four seeds in Slams, Federer was seeded 17th this time around as Nadal was ninth. Both men reached the semi-finals for the loss of three sets, Federer facing compatriot Stan Wawrinka there while Nadal took on Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
Both came through in five sets to meet for a 35th time and in a ninth Slam final. The two traded sets throughout the match, Federer eventually coming out on top for 12th ever win against Nadal.
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