Instead, Federer was more interested in talking about what had just happened on Rod Laver Arena. “For me it's all about the comeback, about an epic match with Rafa again. Doing it here in Australia, that I'm so thankful to Peter Carter and Tony Roche, and others. My popularity here, their support, that I can still do it at my age after not having won a slam for almost five years. That's what I see,” Federer said.
“The last problem is the slam count. Honestly, it doesn't matter.
“It remains for me the ultimate challenge to play against Rafa. It's super sweet, because I haven't beaten him a Grand Slam final for a long time now. This one means a lot to me because he caused me problems over the years.”
It was a match cherished by all Federer fans, no doubt, but by all tennis fans as well: Two of the all-time greats battling for more than three and a half hours for the Australian Open title, the first Grand Slam of the season. Last November, the two were in the same position as well, except resting. Federer sat in Switzerland, rehabbing his left knee. Nadal was in Spain, undergoing the same delicate process for his left wrist.
For both men, it had also been years since they had last played for a Grand Slam title: Federer, 2012 Wimbledon, which he won; and Nadal, 2014 Roland Garros, which he captured as well. The wait made the win that much more meaningful for Federer.
“The magnitude of this match is going to feel different. I can't compare this one to any other one except for maybe 2009 Roland Garros,” said Federer, who won the Paris title after three consecutive runner-up finishes in 2006-08. “I waited for the French Open, I tried, I fought. I tried again and failed. Eventually I made it. This feels similar.”
The Melbourne title was also Federer's first Grand Slam title with coach Ivan Ljubicic. “It's obviously special for the entire team. It was Ivan's first Grand Slam final as a player or as a coach. Obviously he was nervous all day. I tried to calm him down,” Federer said, smiling. “The same thing with my physio, too. I think I can sense that this is not something that he's seen so many times. Whereas Severin, he was totally relaxed about it.
“It's beautiful for all of us. I know how happy they are because they are more than just a coach or a physio or whatever. They're all my friends. So we spent a lot of time talking about am I going to get back to 100 per cent, and if I did, what would it require to win a Grand Slam. Now we made it. We're going to be partying like rock stars tonight. I can tell you that.”
The team all contributed to the win, too, Federer's 18th and one of his most memorable yet. “I told myself to play free. That's what we discussed with Ivan and Severin before the matches. You play the ball, you don't play the opponent. Be free in your head, be free in your shots, go for it. The brave will be rewarded here. I didn't want to go down just making shots, seeing forehands rain down on me from Rafa. I think it was the right decision at the right time,” Federer said. “I had opportunities early on in the fifth, as well, to get back on even terms. I could have been left disappointed there and accepted that fact. I kept on fighting. I kept on believing, like I did all match long today, that there was a possibility I could win this match.”
Date: 29 January 2017, Source: ATP