It was Federer's fifth Australian Open title and his 18th Grand Slam conquest overall, further solidifying his place as the greatest male player in history.
It was the ninth time that Federer and Nadal have faced in a Grand Slam final, with Nadal now holding a 6-3 advantage in the rivalry.
At 35 years old, Federer became the oldest Grand Slam winner since Ken Rosewall triumphed in Australia in 1972, per ESPN Stats & Info. And given that Federer missed the second half of the 2016 season after Wimbledon before his return in 2017, the victory was all the more sweet.
"I wouldn't have minded losing, to be honest, after making the comeback," Federer said in his victory speech, per the ESPN broadcast, referencing how he and opponent Nadal have had to battle back from injuries. "There are no draws in tennis, but tonight I would have been fine sharing this trophy with Rafa."
Tennis fans probably would have been happy with the two players battling through another five sets to decide the result—a measure of how fantastic the level of play between the two legends of the sport was throughout this match.
Buster Olney of ESPN certainly enjoyed the final:
Buster Olney @Buster_ESPN
Australian Open final like Game 7 of Indians and Cubs. Great stuff from Nadal and Federer.2017-1-29 12:18:26
And Nadal, as always, was gracious in defeat.
"Amazing the way he is playing after so long without playing in a tournament," Nadal said of his opponent. "Congratulations. I am happy for you."
The Spaniard added: "Today was a great match, Roger probably deserved it a little bit more than me. I'm just going to keep trying. I feel like I am back at a high level, so I'm going to keep fighting to have a great season."
It appeared as though Nadal had won the fight when he went up 3-1 in the final set, but Federer came roaring back—something the latter will long remember and his rival will long lament.
Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated saw the tragedy in that final set for Nadal:
Jon Wertheim @jon_wertheim
Nadal is back. And the French is next. But, losing the last five games of a Slam final...a beautiful, brutal sport, this one2017-1-29 12:26:10
Federer won Grand Slam title No. 18 with his power and resiliency, smashing 73 winners, 20 aces and winning 29 of 40 net points, per AusOpen.com.
Remember, the Swiss played two five-setters in the lead-up to this final, an amazing test of endurance and grit for the 35-year-old.
It was a display many of his fans weren't sure they would ever see again, as Dan Wolken of USA Today echoed:
Dan Wolken @DanWolken
I really gave up hope. Those last two Wimbledon finals were heartbreaking. Thought that was his last shot, then the injury. Just amazing.2017-1-29 12:19:12
If the matchup and quality of play was a blast from the past, it's hard to imagine the future offering anything much better, as Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal noted:
It appeared the Federer-Nadal rivalry was a thing of the past coming into the Australian Open. The conventional thinking was tennis belonged to Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and perhaps Stan Wawrinka. Federer and Nadal were statesmen for the game, but surely they were no longer among the truly elite players.
They proved that wrong, and Kevin Negandhi of ESPN is hoping they keep proving it wrong this season:
Kevin Negandhi @KNegandhiESPN
Thank goodness for sports. A welcome distraction watching 2 of the best compete. Selfishly, I hope we see Fed-Nadal in a GS final again.2017-1-29 12:45:11
Tennis, and the sports world in general, would be very lucky to see these two ambassadors for the game battle for another final in 2017—even if it will be tough to top the final in Melbourne.