Men's Match of the Decade No. 4: Federer d. Nadal, 2017 Aussie Open

Men's Match of the Decade No. 4: Federer d. Nadal, 2017 Aussie Open

Roger and Rafa gave us what we wanted again: a five-setter that recalled their glory years, with the Swiss emerging victorious, 6–4, 3–6, 6–1, 3–6, 6–3.

Big Three. Big ballers. Big scores. The 2010s were defined by giant-sized contents on the men's side, which we'll review over the next two weeks.

See the entire men's and women's lists here, and relive each match with our video retrospectives.


By the end of 2016, this century’s signature rivalry was little more than a memory. Nadal, 30, had been in a slump for two seasons, while Federer, 35, had been sidelined for six months with a knee injury. They hadn’t met in a major final since 2011. But destiny was in the air in Melbourne in 2017, as the two legends survived multiple brushes with defeat to meet in a much-anticipated title match.

Once there, Roger and Rafa gave us what we wanted again: a five-setter that recalled their glory years. For the first four of those sets, they took turns dominating play. In the fifth, they came together to pack a career’s worth of brilliance into a series of whiplash-inducing rallies. And, to the delight of his fans, who had suffered through years of big-match defeats to Nadal, Federer gave us something new.


Getty Images

“I kept telling myself to play free,” Federer said. He knew it wasn’t as easy as it sounded; he had been trying for years to free his backhand from the grip of Nadal’s forehand. On this day, he finally did it: Down a break at 2-3 in the fifth, Federer took a Nadal forehand and powered back a blazing backhand winner. It was a match-changing, career-changing shot. Free at last, Federer won the last four games and claimed his 18th major title.

Between them, he and Nadal would continue to make tennis fans happy by winning the next five major titles.