New Delhi :
As Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal won match after match at the Australian Open, making their unlikely way through opposite sides of the draw, tennis fans couldn’t help but look ahead.
Could the two old rivals, almost six years on from their last meeting in a Grand Slam final, possibly meet for one more match for the ages in Melbourne?
Federer and Nadal each had to survive epic five-set matches in the semifinals, but they did not disappoint. And now, the dream final tennis fans had hoped for when favorites Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic were upset in the first week is going to happen Sunday night in Rod Laver Arena.
Both the Tennis great met first at Miami Open in 2004 where Nadal had beaten Federer to emerge a new sensation of the game.
What’s at stake is bigger than just Federer-Nadal XXXV, or even the Australian Open title. There’s also history to play for: If Federer wins, he’ll add an 18th Grand Slam trophy to his career record total, putting distance between himself and his rivals.
If Nadal wins his 15th, he’ll pass Pete Sampras for sole possession of second place on the all-time list, and pull tantalizingly close to Federer’s 17.
“The historical context of that match, whether it becomes 17-15 with the French Open next, or 18-14, that’s such a big difference in the historical march for both those guys,” former U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick told a news agency in Melbourne this week.
“That might be, as far as history goes, the biggest match ever in Australian Open history and maybe Grand Slam history. What’s at stake there is beyond what pretty much any player can comprehend.”
The magnitude of the moment is not lost on the players themselves.
“Rafa’s definitely presented me with the biggest challenge in the game,” Federer said after his semifinal win over U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka. “I’m happy we’ve had some epic, epic battles over the years, and of course, it would be unreal to play here.”
Nadal said neither player could have imagined making the final of the year’s first Grand Slam after coming back from their respective injuries in 2016 -- Federer, his knee; Nadal, his wrist. Both men took time off last season and had difficult draws in Melbourne because of their lower rankings. “For me, it’s a privilege,” Nadal said.
“It’s a very, very special thing, I think, for both of us to be in the final of a major again, have another chance to compete against each other after a couple of years having some problems.”
Nadal has dominated Federer in their head-to-head match-ups—he has a 23-11 record overall and has won nine of their 11 matches in Grand Slams.