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03 December 2023

Raining tears in Melbourne

Defeated Federer couldn't hold back his emotions after losing to Nadal again (GETTY IMAGES)

By Ahmad Lala

After Roger Federer was knocked out by Scot Andy Murray in the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament held at the beginning of this year, the former World No1 said: "I don't care if I have a few more losses… for me it's about enjoying the sport."

However, he certainly didn't look like he was enjoying anything when he burst into tears on centre court after losing to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final on Sunday.

As his shocked girlfriend and an even more surprised Nadal watched, a bleary-eyed Federer looked every bit a man who knew he had put his heart, body and soul into fighting an adversary, only to come to a realisation that even his best is not good enough at the moment. The Swiss asked a lot of questions, but the World No1 had all the answers during their four-hour 23-minute affair – eventually won by Nadal, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-2.

Federer was good, but the Spaniard much, much better. In the end the Melbourne crowd witnessed another great game by the two, almost as entertaining as their epic Wimbledon final last year.

It was hard to fathom that Nadal had played in the longest match in Australian Open history with a mammoth five hours semi-final against Fernando Verdasco, while Federer, who had won his previous match in straight sets, had an extra day off.

The sobbing Federer's first words after the defeat were: "God, it's killing me." Maybe the penny had dropped that there could be no stopping Nadal from now on.

The Spaniard holds a 13-6 advantage in matches between the two – a 5-2 edge in Grand Slam finals – and has opened a 3,260 points gap at the top of the ATP rankings.

The 22-year-old holds the Australian and French Open, Wimbledon and the Olympic Games titles.

Before the Melbourne final it looked like Federer would equal Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam wins with ease, now it seems nigh-on impossible.

The Spaniard could also soon become the first man to hold all the Grand Slams and the Olympic title if his form, and body, lasts the year. Meanwhile, someone who knows all about holding three entire Grand Slams simultaneously is Serena Williams, who achieved the feat in 2003.

The American won her fourth Australian Open and 10th Grand Slam with a 59- minute thrashing of Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-3 on Saturday.

When describing her performance from an earlier match, the Russian said: "Somebody needs to smack me so hard in my head that something finally shakes and I put the cables together."

Williams certainly provided the hard smacking, but rather than the cables all coming together for Safina, it looked as if the 22-year-old got the shock of her life.

To think all four of these players and many others will be in action later this month in Dubai. Game on.