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The Greatest Australian Open Finals: Ranked

With the 2022 Australian Open well underway, we thought we’d look back at some of the most epic, jaw-dropping finals to have ever happened in the prestigious tennis tournament. From scintillating serves to fantastic forehands to spectacular smashes, it’s all here on our list.

Of course, so many great finals have taken place on Australian soil for the first Grand Slam of the year, so we won’t get to them all, but these are easily the five that have had the biggest impact over the years. So, put your headband on, maybe smash a racket or two for fun, and let’s take a look at the greatest finals in AO history.

2002 – Jennifer Capriati vs. Martina Hingis

This was women’s tennis at its best, as Jennifer Capriati won certainly her greatest final at the 2002 Australian Open. Capriati’s three-set victory over Martina Hingis in 35°C weather had many thrilling moments throughout the match, but the best was undoubtedly her incredible comeback win when Hingis had four match points in the second set.

Despite Capriati losing the first set 4-6, her 7-6 win in the second and then 6-2 victory in the third was made all the more palpable as she was on the brink of losing it all. Capriati didn’t just take the victory, but also sent many profanities toward the chair umpire during the match. Thankfully, Capriati remained focused enough to win the AO title in 2002.

1995 – Andre Agassi vs. Pete Sampras

Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras would meet on the tennis court a total of 34 times during their illustrious careers, but the 1995 Australian Open matchup was one of their greatest finals against each other. The top two male tennis players at the time had very different styles that always managed to result in an epic match that either could win.

Agassi, who had recently cut off his luscious blonde locks and sported a short haircut, dropped the first set to Sampras, but stormed back ferociously to take the next three sets and win the final in style. While many tennis fans would have ideally loved a longer match, it was nevertheless filled with unbelievable shots from both players.

Though the crowd loved the usually flamboyant Agassi, there was also a lot of affection for Sampras, who was displaying far more emotion and aggression on the court during the 1995 final than in the past. Following the victory, Agassi would go on to take away the no. 1 male tennis player label from Sampras.

2003 – Serena Williams vs. Venus Williams

You can’t have a bigger rivalry in the Australian Open final than your own sibling. The Williams sisters have met in several huge tennis matches throughout their long careers, but this was one of the greatest finals between the two incredibly talented players.

The final was, as expected, full of powerful, precise shots that had all the hallmarks of the Williams’ style of tennis that dominated in the 2000s and beyond. Amazingly, this was the fourth-straight Grand Slam meeting of Venus and Serena, with the latter beating her sister in the 2002 finals of the French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. Sadly for Venus, Serena would yet take home the 2003 Australian Open trophy.

While Venus certainly went down swinging and managed to grab one set, it was completely the Serena Show, as the younger of the Williams sisters just had that extra gear to topple her sibling and win all four Grand Slams in a row.

2009 – Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer

It wasn’t unusual to see either of Nadal, Federer, or Djokovic in a men’s singles Grand Slam final, such was (and still is) their astonishing tennis talent. Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Switzerland’s Roger Federer, in particular, had a friendly rivalry that culminated in one of the most heart-warming moments in AO history.

2009 was certainly the greatest Australian Open final between Nadal and Federer, with the Spaniard taking the marathon five-set match in a flurry of incredible shots that had the Aussie crowd gasping and cheering in equal measure.

In the middle of the match, things didn’t look so good for Nadal, as he not only lost the second set but also needed treatment for right thigh tightness in the third set. It appeared as if Nadal might not have been able to continue, but he soldiered on nevertheless, and the two traded shot after shot until Nadal pulled out a stunning win over the toughest of rivals.

As if the Australian Open final wasn’t passionate enough, Federer tugged at everyone’s heartstrings with his emotional showing during the trophy speeches. Unable to put words together in front of the microphone, the usually indiscernible Federer uttered, “God, it’s killing me”, before falling to pieces and shedding uncontrollable tears. Unable to even complete his speech, Federer moved away from the stage and was hugged by Nadal to rapturous applause by the Aussie crowd.

After the final, Nadal had nothing but kind words for Federer. “Of course it can happen to all of us,” said Nadal about Federer’s moving display on the podium. “It was an emotional moment, and I think this also lifts up the sport, to see a great champion like Federer expressing his emotions. It shows his human side.”

2012 – Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal

This wasn’t just the best final in Australian Open history, but arguably one of the best Grand Slam finals of all time. Both players showcased the pinnacle of talent and determination, with a back and forth final that could have gone either way, but in the end, only one man could win.

After an exhausting match that went for five lengthy sets and lasted a staggering five hours and 53 minutes – the longest final of all time in any Grand Slam tournament – it was Djokovic who raised the trophy and screamed in victory to an equally drained Australian Open crowd (it was well past 1:30am when the match finished).

It was simply the greatest Australian Open final for the incredible energy and motivation demonstrated by two tennis players at the peak of their powers. At one point, a stunning 31-shot rally encapsulated everything about the final: Sheer grit and a relentless to give in.

It’s safe to say that neither man left without giving it all they had, and although it was almost a shame that it couldn’t end in a draw so that Djokovic and Nadal could both celebrate, the tennis show these two put on will be remembered fondly for many years to come.

“It was obvious on the court for everybody who has watched the match that both of us, physically, we took the last drop of energy that we had from our bodies,” said Djokovic after the final. “We made history tonight and unfortunately there couldn’t be two winners.” Although not playing in the 2022 Australian Open, Djokovic has won the Grand Slam tournament down under a whopping nine times, and had three in a row from 2019 to 2021.

Incredibly, there was even some hilarity to top off all the drama the Australian Open crowd had just witnessed, as Djokovic and Nadal were practically swaying on the spot from fatigue while waiting for all the (let’s say quite boring) speeches to wrap up after the trophy ceremony. Although it was quite an unusual gesture, the players were given seats and a bottle of water to at least relax a little bit while the Australian Open came to a well-deserved close for everyone involved.

Honourable mentions

Not the greatest Australian Open finals but still exciting and memorable.

  • Federer gets revenge on Nadal by winning the 2017 AO final in five sets. This time, it’s tears of joy for the popular Swiss player
  • In 2014, Stan Wawrinka proves Swiss players not named Roger Federer can also win the final
  • Mark Edmondson defeats John Newcombe in 1976 to become the last male Australian player to win the AO. Lleyton Hewitt reached the final in 2005 but lost to Marat Safin in four sets. Chris O’Neil was the last Australian female to win the AO title in 1978
  • Serena Williams beats her sister Venus again in the 2017 final. This would be Serena’s 7th Australian Open trophy, tying Margaret Court for the most women’s singles titles
  • Naomi Osaka ushers in a new era for women’s tennis by picking up her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Petra Kvitova in 2019

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Author: Joe Garland