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We Hereby Declare Roger Federer The Greatest Ever After Epic Australian Open Win

During and after the match, Federer aced the moments that counted.

29/01/2017 8:43 PM AEDT | Updated 30/01/2017 12:50 PM AEDT

Roger Federer has beaten Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final, and by so doing, made it almost impossible to make a case against him being considered the greatest tennis player of all time.

The 35-year-old Swiss prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a final which was as exciting as you knew it would be. The script in this match always said there'd be nothing in it and so it proved. You'd have had more chance of getting a free beer at Melbourne Park than an easy point down on Rod Laver Arena.

Both players had won 110 points after four sets of this match. You read that right. They 'd both won the same number of points with a set to go. But Federer forged clear in the fifth and eventually won more points in the match. Overall he hit 73 winners to Nadal's 35, and converted six break points to Nadal's four. And that was that. Federer won the little moments. And the biggest moment of all.

The match stats also reveal that Federer committed 57 unforced error's to Nadal's 28 (full match stats here). Normally, the player with the least errors would win such a close match. But Roger Federer is not normal on a tennis court, and never has been.

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Great mates, even greater rivals.

Federer won the first, third and fifth sets. Nadal actually took a lead in the decider and you thought the match would be his. The Spaniard broke Federer in the first game, then at 30-40 in the second game, he hit just about the shot of the night -- a blistering 146 km/h forehand down the line which gave Federer no chance despite the fact the Swiss was just a metre or two away.

Huge shots in huge moments had been the hallmark of Nadal's night, his tournament, and indeed, his career. Up 2-0 and hitting those sort of shots, how could he be beaten?

By Roger power, that's how. After fighting off a huge challenge from Federer every service game in the fifth set, Nadal eventually cracked. Federer converted his sixth break point of the set to make it 3-3. Then it was 4-3. By this stage, none one in the universe had any fingernails left.

And then, the unthinkable. Down 3-4 and 0-30, Nadal double faulted. The script was momentarily torn up. 0-40. Neither player was ever going to cave in so easily at such a crucial juncture in the match, were they?

Of course they weren't. Nadal saved three break points from 0-40 down. The torn-up pieces of script were suddenly glued back together.

And then, at deuce, the point of the match. A 26 shot rally ended with a Federer forehand winner. That brought another break point. Nadal saved it, but he would eventually lose the game. He didn't crack. Federer just Federered him. The Swiss just hit a brilliant shot when it mattered most.

That made it 5-3. But Roger still had to close it out.

Nadal won the first point of the final game with a cross court backhand winner. Surrender is not in his vocabulary. 0-15. Federer hit a forehand long the next point. 0-30. He was tense. Of course he was tense. But he found an ace. 15-30. A rare Nadal volley winner made it 15-40. Then another ace to Federer. 30-40. An inside-out forehand winner from Federer. Deuce.

Two points for the championship. Nice serve from Federer. One point now. A double fault. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? Wait, he challenges, It was on the line. He got a first serve again but his a forehand long. Deuce again.

An ace. Another match point. Drama. A review. IT'S IN! BIG CHUNK OF LINE THERE. ROGER FEDERER HAS WON!

And so, in his 100th Australian Open match, nearly five years since his last grand slam title, Roger Federer was again a grand slam champ. He hugged his idol Rod Laver, after whom the arena is named. then mounted the winner's podium, where he was his usual magnanimous self.

"I'd like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback," Federer said, referring to the injury layoff which decimated much of his opponent's 2016 (Federer himself missed most of last year through injury).

"I would have been happy to lose too to be honest. It's a tough sport. There are no draws, but if there [were draws], I would have been happy to share it with Rafa tonight, really."

The crowd loved that. But they really loved it when directed some kind words at them.

"I've been coming here almost 20 years now and always enjoyed it, and now my family does too so thank you for that.

"I couldn't be happier right now," Federer said on Channel Seven after the official ceremonies. "I would have said a great event would be [making the] quarters.

"I did believe I had the game and mental and physical capability to do it again," he added, addressing the question of whether he thought he'd ever win another major after not wining one since 2012.

And the last shot, which Nadal challenged?

"I knew this ball was in. Now I can celebrate in a big way, in a massive way."

Because he's Roger Federer, you kind of suspect his version of a "massive celebration" will be a wholesome affair.

PETER PARKS via Getty Images
Tennis feels a lot more important than silly old sport when Rog wins majors.

Will Federer be back? Not sure. He plans to, but his mind may be writing cheques his body can't cash. But one thing you can say with great confidence is that Roger Federer is now the greatest of all time. This match, of course, was always an unofficial battle for that title.

Federer now has 18 grand slam titles to Nadal's 14. Nadal is five years younger, so has time on his side to narrow the margin. The argument will not be completely settled for a while.

Nadal also leads the head-to-head battles 23-12, even after this epic 2017 Australian Open final. His record against Federer has often led his fans to say "well, if you've beaten the best ever many more times than not, and if your record is almost as good as his, doesn't that make you the best ever"?

This is a fair argument, except for one thing. It's the way Federer plays -- rather than his statistical record -- which makes him so brilliant. Sport, ultimately, is about so much more than numbers, and there's something about the way Roger Federer plays tennis which remains incredibly compelling.

Federer reminds us of the way we'd like to play the game of life. His execution is so fluid, so effortless. He doesn't brutalise his opponents to death, he finesses them to death. Artists love Federer. Sportsmen and and women love him. Tradies love him. Intellectuals love him. Parents love him. Kids love him. My mum loves him and your mum probably does too. He's the most relatable tennis player we've ever seen.

And that, by the way, is just his on-court game. Off court, he's as likeable as they come.

None of which is to downplay the talent of Rafa, the greatest fighter the game seen and no less talented than Federer. It's just that, well, he's probably the second best of all time. Like Federer said, there are no draws in tennis.


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