Australian Open 2012: Top Five Greatest Men's Finals Ever
The finals—the culmination of an entire tournament.
The hopes of two players are riding on the outcome of a single match. Several hours will represent what is written in the record books forever.
While the length of a match may not necessarily indicate its quality—as in the Isner-Mahut epic from 2010—Djokovic and Nadal made the ultimate grind as both competed in what would be the longest Grand Slam final in history.
Here, I am going to explore five of the greatest Australian Open men's finals of the open era.
5. Agassi vs. Sampras 1995
Agassi wins (4–6, 6–1, 7–6(8–6), 6–4).
In his only victory over Pete Sampras in a grand slam final, Andre Agassi took out Pete Sampras in a very tight and vigorous four-set match.
This final was compelling, not only because it pitted Sampras and Agassi, but it also represented the first time in their incredible rivalry that Agassi came from a set down to beat Sampras.
3 (tied). Gerulaitis vs. Lloyd 1977
Gerulaitis wins (6–3, 7–6, 5–7, 3–6, 6–2).
In what would prove to be the lone grand slam title for Vitas Gerulaitis, the Lithuanian-American sensation took out John Lloyd in a dramatic five-set match.
After dropping the first two sets, England's Lloyd rallied to capture the following two sets before succumbing in the fifth set. This match had plenty of drama, as Lloyd was almost forced to retire in the fourth set to due to serious cramping.
Interestingly enough, Lloyd had been the first player from Great Britain to reach a Grand Slam final since Fred Perry in 1935.
3 (tied). Nadal vs. Federer 2009
Nadal wins (7-5 -3-6 7-6(3) 3-6 6-2).
For Roger Federer, this match marked possibly the single lowest point in his career.
Having lost to Nadal in five sets the previous summer at Wimbledon, Federer was unable to overcome his ultimate nemesis in Melbourne.
While this match was not on par with the 2008 Wimbledon final in terms of quality, it sure did not fail to meet expectations.
Incredible passing shots—which Nadal executed from seemingly impossible positions—and video-game-like half volley flicks from Federer littered the highlight reel.
As evidenced by the scoreline, Federer was unable to capture the close sets—that being the first and third sets, both of which he had ample opportunities to take a firm control of.
Nadal blazed through the fifth set and deservedly captured his lone Australian Open title.
2. Wilander v. Cash 1988
Wilander wins (6-3, 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-1, 8-6).
In what would prove to be Mats Wilander's greatest year, the Swedish great took out Pat Cash in absolute epic match.
After plowing through the first set and a half, Wilander lost steam after a rain delay and blew a set and a 3-0 lead, dropping the second set in a breaker.
After falling behind two sets to one, Wilander raced through the fourth set and took down the fifth set after breaking Cash at 6-6 in the fifth.
This match lasted 4 hours and 28 minutes and propelled Wilander to win three out of four slams in 1988.
This match was the longest final in Australian Open history until...
1. Djokovic v. Nadal 2012
Djokavic wins (5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5-7), 7-5).
In what will ultimately go down as one of the greatest matches of all time, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal slugged it out on the court in a battle that lasted 5 hours and 53 minutes.
Both men maintained and fully exhibited warrior mentalities throughout the match and neither faltered to demonstrate the passion and effort that created for tennis fans a spectacle beyond our wildest dreams.
After defeating Andy Murray in a five-hour semifinal, Djokovic was able to rely on his fitness to carry him through this six-hour epic match. In additon, Nadal had no walkover in his nearly four-and-half hour semi with Federer.
I do not think there has ever been a match in which two players literally expended the amount of physical and mental energy that Djokovic and Nadal did during this match.