January 27, 2017
The dream final, the one the world wanted, is on. Rafael Nadal will play Roger Federer on Sunday to roll back the years and bring us thrills beyond measure.
Memories of Wimbledon in the dark, Rafa triumphant and Roger in tears after quite possibly the most dramatic tennis match of all time.
So many more epic clashes, when we wondered whether tennis could ever get better. And now we are to be treated to such treasure once more, when no one thought it possible.
We are to be given a 2017 beyond compare, when those who are determined to be at the big finals can say for ever more: ‘I was there.’
Let’s face it, neither Nadal nor Federer can quite believe that they are here – in another Grand Slam final together – but it’s true.
Nadal said: ‘Thank you for your huge support. I never dreamed to be back in the final. For me it’s a privilege and a very very special moment for both of us to be back competing in a Grand Slam final. It’s difficult to describe the emotions. The crowd was amazing.’
Nadal had to play out of his skin to defeat a superb Grigor Dimitrov, who was ultimately undone by a huge unforced error count as he risked it all. After nearly five hours, Nadal prevailed 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (4-7), 6-4 and collapsed on the deck.
But if there was one shot that allowed it all to happen, one shot from the Spaniard that won him the match, it came during the first tie-break, in the third set.
The score was 5-5 and Dimitrov was piling on the pressure. Somehow Rafa improvised an amazing defensive backhand when he had no right to stay in the point.
It flew woundingly deep on the diagonal and in the long run enabled him to win the point and the breaker itself.
Sure, Dimitrov won the next breaker and forced a fifth set that must have had Roger Federer smiling as he rested up for the weekend.
But without that single shot, Rafa may not even have remained in the match, such was the aggressive excellence displayed by the younger man.
And no one would have been too surprised if Dimitrov had reached the final himself, because he has improved almost beyond measure in the last year, and is starting to fulfil his potential at last.
The Bulgarian had two break points at 4-3 ahead in that final set and had he taken either one of them he would have served for the match. But Rafa’s supreme warrior qualities enabled him to survive and break himself instead.
There was pandemonium as Nadal edged closer and finally powered his way over the line. Unbelievable stuff. And even more to come on the weekend.
How lucky we are. The golden era is still very much alive.