Legends on Pause: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer End Australian Open Streak



by JOVICA ILIC

Legends on Pause: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer End Australian Open Streak
© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The upcoming Australian Open's draw will lack Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the first time since 1999! Rafa withdrew a week before the start of the event after experiencing a hip muscle injury in Brisbane, unable to endure the best-of-five efforts.

Thus, Melbourne Park will see no Federer or Nadal for the first time in almost a quarter of a century, with two legends terminating another brilliant story. Roger debuted in Melbourne in 2000, competing Down Under for 21 straight years and collecting six titles and 102 wins, never losing before the third round!

Federer became world no. 1 following his first Australian Open title in 2004 and remained competitive in Melbourne for the following 16 years. The Swiss claimed back-to-back crowns in 2017 and 2018, beating Nadal in that memorable final seven years ago.

Federer last Australian Open match came against Novak Djokovic in the 2020 semi-final, with the Serb prevailing 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 18 minutes in their 50th and final ATP encounter!

Rafael Nadal & Roger Federer, Australian Open 2017© Scott Barbour / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Roger experienced a groin injury against Tennys Sandgren two days earlier.

He showed up against Novak despite not being at his best, forging an early advantage before the Serb took charge. Thus, Djokovic delivered his sixth straight Major win over Federer after the 2012 Wimbledon semi-final loss. Roger was off to a flying start, dominating Novak and forging a 4-1, 40-0 advantage in no time.

Instead of breaking Djokovic for the third straight time, Federer lost the advantage in the sixth game, allowing his rival to climb back and prolong the opener. Novak claimed it in the tie break and never looked back, fending off five out of seven break points and delivering four breaks to seal the deal in straight sets.

Djokovic's serve worked like a charm in sets two and three, dropping 12 points and keeping the pressure on the other side. Federer could not follow that pace, experiencing one break in sets two and three each and ending his last Australian Open campaign in the semi-final at 38.

The Australian Open draw will not host Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.

Roger revealed a knee injury a few weeks later and underwent surgery. As we all know, the Swiss never returned at his best, playing a couple of tournaments in 2021 and ending his glorious career at the 2022 Laver Cup.

Rafa Nadal debuted in Melbourne at 17 in 2004, reaching the third round and losing to Lleyton Hewitt. Nadal's first Australian Open title came in 2009 following an epic victory over Federer, celebrating his first hard-court Major.

Rafa lost the next four Australian Open finals, including the 2017 one versus the Swiss. The Spaniard bounced back in 2022, struggling physically but heading all the way for his first Melbourne Park trophy in 13 years! Rafa met Daniil Medvedev in the final and trailed 6-2, 7-6, 3-2, 40-0, standing on the verge of his fifth consecutive Australian Open loss.

Rafa defended those three break chances in the third set's sixth game and started one of his most impressive comebacks in a career! The Spaniard raised his level and scored a 2-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 triumph in five hours and 24 minutes, becoming the first player with 21 Major titles.

A year later, Nadal traveled to Melbourne with no confidence, struggling with injuries since the summer of 2022 and losing both United Cup matches prior to the Australian Open. Rafa kicked off the title defense with a win over Jack Draper in four sets.

The Spaniard met Mackenzie McDonald in the second round and suffered a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 loss, his earliest at Majors in seven years. Nadal experienced a left hip injury in the closing stages of the second set. He risked a lot but refused to surrender, playing until the end like a true champion.

The American played well, firing 42 winners and 22 unforced errors. He lost serve two times and broke Nadal five times, including a late one in set number three.

Rafael Nadal & Roger Federer, Australian Open 2009© Scott Barbour / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafa revealed a grade 2 left hip flexor injury, missing the rest of the season and experiencing the most extended break of his career!

Nadal underwent surgery in June and trained well in the last part of the year, announcing his comeback in Brisbane in the first week of 2024. A 22-time Major winner made an impressive return after 349 days, beating Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler and entering the quarter-final.

Nadal met Jordan Thompson and wasted three match points in a 7-5, 6-7, 6-3 loss, battling for three hours and 25 minutes and feeling the pain in his left hip again! The Spaniard revealed a micro tear on a muscle near last year's injury, traveling to Melbourne but deciding to skip the Australian Open after further checks.

Rafa had a chance to beat Jordan in straight sets, creating a match point on the return at 5-4 and two more in the tie break. The Aussie survived them and forced a decider, pushing the veteran to the limits. Nadal could not endure such a massive effort after not competing for a year, requiring a medical timeout and losing serve once in the decider to propel the rival over the top and ruin his Australian Open campaign.

Rafael Nadal Roger Federer Australian Open