They first met on the hard courts of Miami in 2004. Thirteen years and 34 meetings later, Federer and Nadal were dueling again, on the hard courts of Australian open. Except this time, it was probably the most important match that they have played.
It was over four years since Federer won any grand slam event. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity. He was one match away from the grand slam title. But there were countless articles that disagreed. I remember reading an article called, "Why Roger Federer will never win another grand slam". Although Federer is my idol, it certainly made valid points. He was way past his peak age, and had to regularly compete with people 10 years younger than him. Even the statistics pointed to that conclusion. In this 4 year period, it meant Federer had 16 opportunities to win a grand slam, but he was unable to capitalize on even one of them.
But my childhood role model was out to set everyone wrong. He wouldn't give up without a fight. The match consisted of long rallies, where both players hit their signature shots. Federer, with his powerful one-handed backhand, and Nadal, hitting his usual top-spin shots. It was a duel that lasted 5 sets long, with each set getting better than the previous. And this time, Federer came out victorious. The tactical mastermind adapted and took shots early to give Nadal little time to react.
It was a rare occasion to see Federer cry. But after all, this grand slam was important to him. It meant his career was revitalized. I remember sitting there and thinking, "the maestro was back."