Top matches of 2012 - No.7: Epic Aussie Open final

By Steven Holloway

Novac Djokovic struck a clinching, inside-out forehand winner to beat Rafa Nadal at 1.37 on the Monday morning. Photo / Getty Images.
Novac Djokovic struck a clinching, inside-out forehand winner to beat Rafa Nadal at 1.37 on the Monday morning. Photo / Getty Images.

The stunning, spectacular and the sentimental, nzherald.co.nz lists the top ten sporting matches of 2012.

Number 7: Epic Aussie Open final
Sunday January, 2012

It was the longest Grand Slam final in the history of tennis, the seventh longest match in the history of men's singles, and the longest match in the history of the Australian Open.

But length alone wasn't what made it so great.

The 2012 Melbourne final waged between the top two players in the world lasted five hours and 53 minutes, before Novac Djokovic struck a clinching, inside-out forehand winner to beat Rafa Nadal at 1.37 on the Monday morning.

But most importantly, the quality of tennis was absolutely incredible, with the two most consistent players in the game trading crushing blows in an endless stream of pulsating baseline encounters.

Nadal edged a tight first set 7-5, before Djokovic came on strong, taking the next two sets 6-4, 6-2 and taking a 4-3, 40-0 lead on Nadal's serve.

Clinging on to the match by his fingertips, Nadal somehow clawed his way back from the brink. As he saved break point after break point, Nadal became more and more pumped up.

By the time the 4th set reached a tiebreak, he was positively frenzied. When Rafa finally closed out the set, he dropped to his knees, fists pumping furiously. It was a fantastic moment.

A turbo-charged Nadal then ran out into a 4-2 lead in the deciding set, but now it was Djokovic's turn to find an extra gear. The Serb hit back, and with the scores level at two sets all, four games all, the two gladiators embarked on an epic 32 shot rally. When Djokovic finally pushed a backhand long, he collapsed onto his back, chest heaving up and down like a man who was on the verge of a total collapse.

Both players were at the limits of their physical and emotional endurance, but it was Djokovic who found a final burst to push himself over the finish line. He dropped to the court once again, this time in triumph as well as exhaustion.

What they said:

Rafael Nadal
"I think we played a great tennis match. I think, a very good show. I enjoyed being part of this event and this match. I really understand that was a really special match, and probably a match that gonna be in my mind not because I lost, no, (but) because the way that we played. I wanted to win, but I am happy about how I did. Physically was the toughest match I ever played. I am tired."

Novak Djokovic:
"You're going through so much suffering your toes are bleeding. It's outrageous but you're still enjoying the pain."

Asked if it was the greatest win of his career:
"I think [it] comes out on the top because the fact that we played almost six hours is incredible. I'm very proud just to be part of this history. I was very flattered to be playing in front of Rod Laver, and in front of 15,000 people that stayed until 1:30 a.m."

Craig Boyd of the Institute of Performance Research at Manchester Metropolitan University.
"It's a phenomenal effort, a phenomenal aerobic and endurance performance."

Top matches of 2012
No. 8 - Blues suffer last minute heartbreak
No.9 - Arsenal make astonishing comeback
No.10 - Black Sticks go down fighting

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