“It might be, as far as history goes, the biggest match ever in Australian Open history — and maybe grand slam history.”
That’s Andy Roddick talking about the upcoming dream final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal that absolutely no one saw coming when the tournament began two weeks ago. Why could it be the biggest match in grand slam history? Because it could significantly alter the way these two legends are discussed in the never-ending GOAT debate. Federer, with 17 slams, could cement his status with number 18, while Rafa, at 14 slams, could inch even closer to the record and be on his way to tying it. The French Open (a slam Rafa has won 9 times) is just a few short months away, after all.
Both Federer and Nadal are just as incredulous as their uber-devoted fans to find themselves once again playing against each other for one of the biggest trophies in tennis. Federer hadn’t play competitively for six months; Nadal had an injury-ravaged and disappointing 2016 season. But here we are about to party like it’s 2008. And everyone is soaking up the nostalgia – from the fans, both casual and serious, to the commentators who have been openly hoping for this all week (jinxes be damned!).
Predictions are always tricky but if you look at the betting odds, Nadal is the favorite mainly due to his dominant head-to-head lead against Federer (a scorching 23-11). But if you’re superstitious, it’s hard not to notice the pattern of lucky 7s surrounding Federer. He currently has 17 slams, is seeded #17, and beat Nadal 10 years in 2007 at Wimbledon (it was the last team he beat him in a Slam final). Oh, and it’s 2017.
The term embarrassment of riches can be viewed as hyperbole in many conversations but not here not now. Not only do we have Federer and Nadal meeting in the men’s final, but there’s yet another can’t-believe-it’s-not-2008 match happening on the women’s side, too. The sisters who’ve spent the last twenty years redefining American tennis are once again showing the rest of the field how it’s done.
While Serena getting there is no surprise, it’s her sister Venus’s presence on the other side of the net that has us smiling just about as hard as she did when she booked her place after a three-set power hitting performance over Coco Vandeweghe. Serena is 35; Venus is 36. Serena’s got 22 slams to Venus’s 7 (there’s that lucky number again). Serena could break Steffi Graf’s record on Saturday; Venus could defy overwhelming odds and an on-going struggle with Sjogren’s Syndrome to prove age ain’t nothing but a number. The rest of us get to sit back and bask in the awesomeness.
I hate picking winners (jinxes are a real thing in my book) but I will say this: My heart says Roger and Venus. My head says Serena and Rafa. Both matches start at 3:30am ET – Saturday for the women, Sunday for the men on ESPN, so quit reading this and take a nap!