An Australian Open final that many tennis fans would have dreamed of – and certainly not expected – is set to take place on a magical Sunday in Melbourne.
For the first time since 2011, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will reignite their incredible rivalry in a Grand Slam final.
Both are two of tennis’ greatest ever players and both have fended off numerous injury problems to prove once again why they are both legends of the game.
Both have been inspirational on their fairy-tale routes to the final. Federer withstood a fightback from fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka whilst Nadal defeated a resurgent Grigor Dimitrov to book a date with his old nemesis at the Rod Laver Arena.
Federer vs Nadal is one of sport’s most encapsulating rivalries, but which of these two warriors will earn the bragging rights in this Stat Battle?
*Stats are correct as of 28 January 2017
ROUND 1: HEAD-TO-HEAD
For all of their classic meetings and their outstanding number of Grand Slams, Federer and Nadal’s head-to-head record is surprisingly one-sided.
It is the Spaniard who dominates this category, winning 23 of his 34 encounters against the Swiss. That means Nadal boasts a hugely impressive 68% win rate against the man who many believe to be tennis’ Greatest of All-Time.
Currently standing at 23–11 in Nadal’s favour, can the powerful Spaniard extend that lead at the Rod Laver Arena on Sunday? Or can the elegant Swiss eat into that incredible gap?
ROUND 2: ATP RANKINGS
Squabbling over the world number one spot not so long ago, injury spells have taken their toll on both players’ rankings in recent times.
Heading into the 2017 Australian Open, Rafa was clinging on to his place in the top 10 by his fingernails, ranked 9th in the ATP standings.
For Federer though, the slump has been even greater. A six-month injury lay-off after Wimbledon has seen Roger fall to 17th in the rankings heading into Melbourne.
However, with the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic taking the spotlight in recent years, Federer and Nadal have both brilliantly belied their (relatively) low rankings by reaching the final and reminding tennis fans (and sports fans) everywhere that class is permanent.
ROUND 3: CAREER SINGLES TITLES
Both are amongst the most successful male tennis players ever in the Open Era, but it is Federer who has been the more successful in terms of career titles.
The Swiss is ranked 3rd in the Open Era with an extraordinary 88 singles titles since turning professional in 1998. Only Jimmy Connors (109) and Ivan Lendl (94) boast more than Federer.
Rafa has some catching up to do to match Roger in this category but still boasts an impressive collection of 69 singles titles since he turned pro in 2001. Nadal is ranked 6th on the all-time list in the Open Era, where John McEnroe (77) and Rod Laver (74) separate him from his great rival.
ROUND 4: GRAND SLAM TITLES
As well as career titles, Federer also boasts more Grand Slam triumphs than Nadal, although the Spaniard is not too far behind.
In the Open Era, Federer is the pinnacle in terms of Grand Slam titles, with his incredible record of 17 Slams unmatched by anyone in the sport’s history.
Nadal meanwhile has a more than credible 14 Grand Slam successes to his name, tied 2nd with Pete Sampras.
Will Federer earn an unprecedented 18th Grand Slam in Melbourne or will Nadal close to within 2 of the record-holder?
ROUND 5: AUSTRALIAN OPEN
With the 2017 Australian Open final on the horizon, it seems apt to look back at Roger and Rafa’s record in Melbourne.
Between them they have earned 5 Aussie Open titles, but it is Federer’s record that makes for more pleasant reading. Roger has emerged victorious in 4 of his 5 final appearances at the Rod Laver Arena whilst Rafa has only 1 Australian Open title to his name.
However, interestingly, Nadal’s solitary triumph in 2009 came after the only ever ‘Fedal’ final in Melbourne. Does that bode well for the left-handed Spaniard on Sunday?
ROUND 6: FRENCH OPEN
Unsurprisingly, the ‘King of Clay’ is the comprehensive victor in the French Open category.
Nadal is comfortably the most successful male tennis player of all-time at Roland Garros, earning an extraordinary 9 titles on the hallowed clay.
The Spaniard’s incredible run of 9 French Open triumphs in 10 years was only interrupted in 2009 by, guess who, Roger Federer.
The 2009 final saw Federer’s 1 and only French Open title, when he defeated Nadal’s shock conqueror Robin Soderling to claim a well-deserved career Grand Slam.
Nadal and Federer have met in 4 French Open finals, with the Spaniard triumphing in every single one of them.
ROUND 7: WIMBLEDON
While Nadal dominated on his preferred surface of clay, Federer has excelled on the hallowed grass at the All England Club.
Federer shares a record 7 Wimbledon titles with Pete Sampras in the Open Era, whilst Nadal has lifted the famous gold trophy on 2 occasions.
The first of many Grand Slams for the Swiss came at the All England Club in 2003, when he defeated Mark Phillippoussis in straight sets on Centre Court. Nine years later, on the very same court, he earned his 27th (and so far, last) Grand Slam with a four-set success against Andy Murray.
Nadal’s earned his Wimbledon titles in 2008 and 2010; he brushed aside Tomas Berdych in the latter and the former is regarded by many as the greatest tennis final in the history of the sport, lifting his trophy in darkness after a lengthy five-set classic against Federer.
That was Nadal’s only triumph over Federer in a Wimbledon final, while the Swiss defeated the Swiss twice in the Centre Court showpiece.
ROUND 8: US OPEN
Much like Wimbledon and the Australian Open, Federer has the edge over his great rival at Flushing Meadows.
The Swiss boasts 5 US Open titles, the first 5 of his 7 final appearances at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
In terms of final appearances, the US Open has been Nadal’s weakest Slam, appearing in the showpiece event only 3 times. However, 2 of those appearances ended in victory for the Spaniard in 2010 and 2013, both against Novak Djokovic.
Surprisingly, New York has never witnessed a ‘Fedal’ final. All 3 of Nadal’s final appearances saw the Spaniard take on Djokovic whilst Federer faced 6 different opponents in his 7 US Open finals. Victories over Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray preceded a shock defeat against Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009 and a tough encounter against an in-form Djokovic in 2015.
ROUND 9: OLYMPICS
Both Federer and Nadal have represented their nations at the summer Olympic Games in both the singles and doubles events. Both also boast 2 Olympic medals, one for singles and one for doubles.
However, despite all of his outstanding achievements in tennis, Federer is yet to win a gold medal in the singles, whereas Nadal achieved that very feat in 2008. The Spaniard defeated Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in Beijing to take the gold whilst Federer secured gold in the doubles partnered with Stan Wawrinka.
Unable to compete in 2012, Nadal’s second medal would arrive in Rio last summer. Partnered with Marc Lopez, Rafa helped Spain defeat Romania in the men’s doubles to earn the ‘King of Clay’ his second Olympic gold. Nadal missed a chance to earn a third medal after losing his bronze medal singles match against Kei Nishikori, having been beaten by a resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro in an epic semi-final tussle.
Federer withdrew from the Rio Olympics but managed to reach the gold medal match at London 2012. However the Swiss had to settle for silver as an inspired Andy Murray raced to the gold medal in straight sets, on the same court where Federer had ended his Wimbledon dreams just weeks earlier.
With 2 gold medals to Federer’s 1, Nadal edges his great rival in this category.
ROUND 10: YEAR-END CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
The end-of-year Championship finals event pits the best against the best, and it is Federer who comfortably takes this round with 6 triumphs in total.
When the event was known as the Tennis Masters Cup, Federer sealed 4 titles in 5 years between 2003 and 2007; the only blemish came in 2005 where he lost an epic five-set finale against David Nalbandian.
Since the tournament was renamed as the ATP World Tour finals in 2009, Federer claimed a further 2 titles in 2010 and 2011, defeating Nadal and likeable Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in three sets.
Nadal, however, has failed to taste success at the O2 Arena, losing both of his final appearances against Federer in 2010 and Novak Djokovic in 2013.
ROUND 11: GRAND SLAM FINALS
Although Federer boasts a record 17 Grand Slam titles to Nadal’s 14, their head-to-head record in Grand Slam finals sees the Spaniard comfortably ahead.
The two legends have met in a Grand Slam final 8 times but the record is heavily one-sided in favour of the Spaniard. Nadal leads this particular head-to-head 6–2, with both of Federer’s victories on the grass of Wimbledon in 2006 and 2007.
“I never dreamed to be back in the final of the Australian Open. It is a very special thing for both of us to be playing again in a major final. Neither of us probably thought we would be here again.” – Rafael Nadal, speaking after his semi-final victory over Grigor Dimitrov
The 2017 Australian Open final will be the first Grand Slam final meeting between the pair since the 2011 French Open, where Nadal triumphed in four sets.
Will this head-to-head boost Nadal’s confidence? Or can Federer defeat his arch-rival for the first time in a Slam final away from Wimbledon?
FINAL RESULT: Federer 6-5 Nadal
Both are without doubt two of the greatest male players to ever grace a tennis court and, with both severely hampered by injuries in recent months, the pair of them have exceeded expectations just by making the final.
No matter who triumphs at the Rod Laver Arena, it is an extraordinarily popular final, the final many would have wanted but could only have dreamt about.
In terms of this Stat Battle, it is the Swiss player who edges his great rival but both are two of the best talents the sport has ever witnessed.
With the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka dominating the sport in recent times, Federer and Nadal have reminded everyone that class is permanent, and on Sunday we will have the privilege of viewing an unexpected new chapter in a rivalry that transcends tennis.
A rivalry where many would of thought the book had closed, will see a much-anticipated bonus feature on Sunday night. Neither one of their legacies will be tainted with defeat at the Rod Laver Arena, but it won’t half boost the legacy of the winner.
May the best man win!
Who will win the 2017 Australian Open? Roger or Rafa?