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Nostalgia, Experience, Success Dominate Australian Open Dream Finals

Australian Open

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal. Serena vs Venus Williams. It is still 2017 right?

As Rafael Nadal fell to his knees after defeating Gregor Dimitrov in a grueling five set semi-final, the tennis world found itself with a pair of finals that hadn’t been seen together since 2008 Wimbledon as both Nadal and Roger Federer and Serena and Venus Williams would be going head-to-head for the chance to win the year’s first major.

Aside from Serena Williams, who has won five of the last nine majors, neither Nadal, Federer or Venus had even reached a grand slam final since 2014 and that was Nadal at the French. If you don’t include that, given Nadal winning the French was practically a given until two years ago, you’d have to go back even further to 2012, when Federer won his last major to date at Wimbledon and even further than that to find Venus’ last title, Wimbledon 2008.

For both pairs, it will be their ninth all-time finals meeting.

The four have been on tour professionally a collective of 80 years. Their ages combined equal 136. They have won 60 grand slam titles among them. They have won Olympic medals, Davis Cup crowns and Masters 1000s. They have 277 career titles among them and overall victories numbering over 4,000. They have spent 763 weeks ranked as the best player in the world. They own countless records and each has a resume littered with accomplishments.

Plain and simply put, this is most likely the greatest assembly of talent a finals match-up that tennis has ever seen. It just so happens, it’s also the oldest.

So while it may feel like we’ve stepped into a tennis time machine back to the 2000s, where four 20-somethings were just starting to write the stories of what would be these four extraordinary, historic, remarkable, Hall of Fame careers, it is indeed 2017. It just very well could be a year of resurgence, revival, renewal, and perhaps even career rebirth for four legends of the game because after all, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Big Four Becomes Big Two Once Again as Federer, Nadal Last Ones Standing

In 2004, at the Miami Masters,in the opening round of 32, a young, upstart Spaniard who had just turned pro three years prior, won his first match against the two time major winner and defending Wimbledon champion, Roger Federer. Little did these two know it then but not only would they become the two best active players in the world, but theirs would be a rivalry that would define the narrative of tennis over that entire decade and beyond.

The Miami Masters was also the first and so far last time, the two, who met again at the tournament in the finals the following year, would face each other in anything less than a quarterfinal. Federer did go on to win that match, but it was his only such victory in the next five meetings, four of which were on clay, a surface which has become synonymous with Nadal’s success. In fact, it is the clay courts and Nadal’s dominance of them which led to Federer not getting his first and only French Open title until 2009. Nadal missed the tournament that year. In their five meetings at Roland Garros however, he is undefeated, prompting some to hold off on calling Federer the best tennis player of all-time given the kryptonite that has been Nadal.

Nadal owns the head-to-head 23-11, including their last meeting in a grand slam which came in 2014 at the Australian Open semifinals. The result was the same in the 2012 semifinals and again in the 2009 finals, marking yet another major where Federer has yet to defeat his biggest rival.

With Federer ranked 17th and Nadal ranked ninth in the world, this is the lowest combined total ranking the two have owned since their very first meeting and the lowest of all-time. Their road to this finals was a little more difficult as it had been in years past so seeing both reach the championship match, knowing one of them, either the 30-year-old Nadal, who has just won one major not including the French Open since 2010, or the 35-year-old Federer who hasn’t won any majors at all since 2012, will win another title, is incredible in and of itself.

To say that two guys who dominated the 2000s, winning 27 majors between them from 2005-14, are playing some of their best tennis now might seem like a bit of a stretch but it’s not completely off the mark. Both Nadal and Federer, coming off of injury plagued seasons, look sharp and fresh. They look like the same two who met in 2009 at the Australian Open, which has been described as one of the best finals in tennis history. They look like two men capable of winning more majors, which just last year seemed like a laughable prospect, but now is a guarantee as one will walk away champion, in this their 35th all-time meeting.

History on the Line for Williams Sisters in Ninth Slam Final Meeting

At this point in their careers (Venus is 36, Serena 35) and with Venus’ recent health issues, there was really only a slim chance that we would ever see a Williams Sisters final again, this being the first since Wimbledon 2009 and their ninth overall (Serena leads 6-2). That being said, Venus has been on a bit of a resurgence herself dating back to 2016, where she won the women’s doubles at Wimbledon with Serena, their 14th crown overall and first since 2012, became only the second female player to earn Olympic medals in all disciplines, adding mixed doubles silver to her already impressive resume. Additionally, Venus entered all grand slam tournaments that year ranked in the top-10, not having done that since 2010. 2016 was also a year that Venus reached at least the fourth round in all but one major, another feat she hadn’t accomplished since 2010.

This will be Venus’ first finals appearance since 2008 and her first finals appearance at the Australian Open since 2003, where she faced and lost to Serena in a very highly competitive three-setter. She was 22 at the time, Serena just 21. That Australian Open was the fourth consecutive grand slam final where the sisters faced off, marking the first time in tennis history where the same two people contested that many majors in a row. Serena won all four.

Both sisters will be looking for history on Saturday as Serena will be looking for major #23, which would put her atop the list of the winningest female tennis player in the Open era, surpassing Steffi Graf, who she tied last year. With the win, Serena would also regain the world No. 1 ranking, making her the oldest to hold that spot since the rankings were first introduced in 1975. Venus will be in pursuit of her first ever title at the Australian Open and eighth major crown overall. If she wins, she’ll make her own mark on history, passing the record Serena set at the 2015 Wimbledon as the oldest woman to win a grand slam.

Some other age-related numbers at play in this meeting are that this is only the third time in the Open era that a grand slam final is being contested between two women in their 30s. The combined age of 71 between the two, makes this the oldest women’s major final by more than five years. That just goes to show the incredible longevity and success these two sisters have shared throughout their careers as two of the best and most important female tennis players in the world. Saturday may be the last chapter in this story, but on the other hand, it may not. All that’s known for sure is that for the remarkable 30th time, a Williams is bringing home a major crown.

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