In the 33rd installment of one of sports great rivalries the recent form of both men allowed mouths to water once more.
Recent matchups between Rafa and Roger had fallen short such is the Spaniards increasing dominance (especially over the Swiss) coupled with the ageing mastro’s decline.
This was particularly the case in majors where Nadal has ruled the roost since 2007.
But some Swede-inspired mastery here and a horrid blister there and hopes were high of another close contest.
It was instead however, another masterclass from the King of Clay who never allowed Federer to employ the attacking gameplan he so desperately needed. Roger simply stands no chance if trying to battle things out from the baseline.
At times of course – as has been the case throughout their rivalry – Rafa’s left handedness often proved the difference. Shots that wouldve otherwise proven clean winners from Federer against an opponent’s backhand side were swatted away from Mr Kia.
Nadal never faltered and seemed immune to what must have been a supremely painful or at least a distracting blister which opened up once more at the halfway stage.
Federer was cautious, rattled and not as spritely as against Tsonga and Murray.
Not only is there the difference in strength, playing style and age but mentally too Federer becomes most human against his nemesis and the doubts soon flood his mind.
At this juncture in both men’s careers we can simply be thankfull that both are meeting at the latter stages of slams. That and continue to marvel at the Spaniard’s tenacity, self belief and withering solidity matched only by his ability from the baseline.
Above all else, this match proves that- when at his best- no-one can keep up with Nadal and that’s Murray and Djokovic included.
Statistically he will become the best player of all time, of that we can have no doubt. In majors count it is all but certain at least.
Everyone will have their favourites of course and few can realistically argue against Federer being the most naturally gifted and artistic of players, but he never really had the measure of Nadal.
Nevertheless, for Federer this tournament has given encouraging signs of some more progress in majors and is a huge improvement of the woes of last year; for Nadal this is now the best chance in years of claiming a second title Down Under.