When Roger Federer lifted the Wimbledon crown in 2012 it was considered a final swansong for the Swiss maestro; a victory the man himself looked like he could scarcely believe. The following four and a half years have seen him continue to show the ability that made him a legend of the sport. A record eighteenth grand slam appeared a step too far however. The tennis world watched with amazement as Federer came through a five-set Australian Open final to defeat his eternal rival Rafael Nadal.
The women’s side of the draw saw a similar story emerge. Serena Williams defeated one of her great adversaries (at least on the court), Venus Williams, in the final, as she herself made her own piece of history, surpassing Steffi Graf’s 22 titles. The Australian Open saw for Federer perhaps a final piece of glory to his legacy, whilst Williams continues to rule the game with no signs of stopping. For both, Melbourne fortified both their cases to be considered the greatest of all time.
Federer has always had an unflappable demeanour and mental strength that continues to mystify both experts and his opponents. For a long time now, the sheer ability of Federer has not been questioned, but rather his ability to defy age and the evolution of tennis over time.
Perhaps fortune favoured the player seeded 17 coming into the slam, with a long injury lay-off potentially a blessing in disguise, whilst the top seeds, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, saw themselves stunned in earlier rounds. Yet, to defeat Switzerland’s new number one, Stan Wawrinka, in the semi final, and then Nadal in the final, showed how he has adapted to the trend of powerful big-hitters dominating the game.
The fact it was Nadal that Federer beat is fitting considering their history. The two champions have played out some of the most memorable matches in tennis history. The winning record Nadal has over Federer remained the one true counterpoint to contend the Swiss’ status as the greatest. So it is symbolic that Federer’s greatest achievement came at the expense of the Spaniard during a renaissance of his own.
Serena Williams’ victory was not the shock Federer’s was yet it still holds a similar level of significance in tennis. The triumph saw her claim a twenty-third grand slam title, a record in the Open era. Even more impressively, her run in Melbourne saw her claim the crown without dropping a single set throughout the entire competition.
Despite already being the oldest woman to claim a grand slam title, it is widely considered that when Serena Williams brings her top form to a tournament, she sits head and shoulders above the competition.
Her mental attitude has frequently seen interrogation; multiple times in her career the diagnosis for her failure has been that she beat herself. Yet the sheer fact that her first Australian Open title came fourteen years before January’s success shows longevity of determination to accompany her superior talent.
Few would bet against Williams reaching title number 24 and matching Margaret Court’s all time record, and then even fewer would deny her status as the greatest the women’s game has ever seen.