This year’s Australian Open has truly transported us to the golden days of tennis. Beginning with women’s singles final on Saturday between Serena and Venus Williams and watching Bryan Brothers on the cusp of making history in men’s doubles, we go to the last day. That day will see old foes Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal squaring up in men’s singles final. Tennis lovers couldn’t have asked for a more vintage setting. Until Friday, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov was the only odd figure out in the company of modern tennis’ most famous veterans but that changed after the last men’s singles semifinal was played in Melbourne on January 27. To his credit, Dimitrov fought hard. The Bulgarian surpassed his best in playing against the Spanish bull-fighter Rafael Nadal before bowing out. Beside the Williams sisters, Federer and Nadal, there are two more players, who will complete the meeting of golden greats at Melbourne over the next two days. Mike and Bob Bryan have ruled men’s doubles tennis in the same way as Serena, Venus, Federer and Nadal have done in singles. It all points to the fact that the last week of January at Melbourne will go down in history for honoring arguably the games’ biggest celebrities. The mathematical probability of such a thing happening in upcoming Grand Slam tournaments is quite remote in the face of several promising youngsters knocking the doors.
The last couple of days at the 2017 Australian Open have been amazing. It began with Venus Williams reaching the women’s singles final in many years. Sister Serena followed her soon with a blistering form at Melbourne. Next was Roger Federer, who just escaped from making an exit in the semifinal against his Swiss compatriot Stan Wawrinka. That left only Rafael Nadal. The Spanish superstar of many years and 14-time Grand Slam winner was given a trying time by his 25-year old Bulgarian opponent, Grigor Dimitrov. While the world watched with bated breath, Nadal and Dimitrov engaged themselves in a big battle. Most people wanted Nadal to win in the hope of watching a classic final on Sunday. Nadal did come through in the end but it took him nearly 5 hours against a determined Dimitrov.
Nadal began forcefully and dominated the opening set. He broke Dimitrov’s service in fourth game and raced away to take the set in 35 minutes. In second set, the fighting Dimitrov showed he wasn’t taking it lying down. He attacked Nadal on both flanks and broke his service in fourth game. At 5-3 on his own service, Dimitrov allowed a little leeway to Nadal and paid the price as Nadal earned a break-back. At 5-5, Dimitrov broke Nadal again. At 6-5, Nadal saved four set points before yielding the set to Dimitrov. The third set went on serves and this time, Nadal forced the issue in the tiebreak. But Dimitrov made another comeback in fourth set. His service began working and he forced Nadal into errors. This set also went to the tiebreak with Dimitrov winning it.
Now the decider held the secrets of who would reach the final. The players began by holding their service while fighting in between and trying to save themselves on break points. Serving in eighth game at 3-4, Nadal was down two break points. Dimitrov had a huge chance here but Nadal fought back to level at 4-4. No predictions were possible after more than 4 hours in the match. Suddenly Rafa produced a brief spell of brilliance and broke Dimitrov to lead 5-4. Now all Nadal needed was to hold his serve. Dimitrov didn’t relent and fought hard as he denied the Spaniard on his first two match points. On the third, however, Nadal served out to seal the victory at 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. It was an effort from Nadal that will certainly go down among his career’s finest victories.
The 14-time Grand Slam winner Nadal has made a comeback after being plagued by his left-wrist injury for several months. By reaching the final at Melbourne, Nadal tells us that he can still play at top level just as Roger Federer is doing. Nadal and Federer meet in a highly anticipated final on Sunday. Between the two of them, they have won 31 Grand Slams titles and the 32nd is guaranteed regardless of the title winner at Melbourne on Sunday. It may be a classic worth its weight in gold.
That the 2017 Australian Open is an event of the golden oldies will be reaffirmed if Mike and Bob Bryan also win the men’s doubles title on Saturday. The celebrated American duo have already entered the final on Thursday by beating Spanish duo Pablo Carreno Busta/Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-6, 6-3. On Saturday, the Bryans will play against 4th seeded Henry Kontinen(Finland)/John Peers(Australia), who defeated Australian wild-cards Marc Polmans/Andrew Whittington 6-4, 6-4. The Brothers are inarguably the greatest doubles team of all-time. This is their 10th Australian Open final and they have already won the title on 6 occasions out of their 16 Grand Slam victories. If they win on Saturday, the Bryans will make history by surpassing Australian legend Todd Woodbridge, who won 16 men’s doubles titles.