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peRFection: Federer beats Nadal in five sets to win fifth Australian Open title

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Roger Federer has won his fifth Australian Open title and 18th Grand Slam title, defeating Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a thrilling contest at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Sunday. Federer's win tonight saw him claim his first Grand Slam title win since winning Wimbledon in 2012. The win snapped a six-match losing streak to Nadal in Grand Slam play. Before Sunday night, Federer's most recent major win over his great rival came in the Wimbledon final of 2007.

At the age of 35, Federer made history by becoming the second oldest Grand Slam singles male champion after Australian Ken Rosewall, who won the 1972 Australian Open at 37.

Federer hit 73 winners, including 20 aces, and won 76 per cent of his first service points for victory in three hours and 37 minutes. Nadal committed 28 unforced errors - 29 fewer than Federer. All-out aggression from Federer proved decisive in the match, his 100th outing at the Australian Open.

It was an iconic contest and it deserved five sets as Federer prevailed in an electric atmosphere, rallying from a break down in the fifth set to win the last five games to seal what was looking like an unlikely win. The tears of joy flowed freely for Federer as hawkeye reviewed his forehand winner on match point, ruling it in.

Sheer will and hard work saw them both find their best level and rise to the occasion in Melbourne, taking advantage of shock week one defeats for No.2 Novak Djokovic and No.1 Andy Murray to bring about a nostalgic final for tennis enthusiasts.

Both men started the match on a positive note, hardly dropping any points in their early service games. A change of racquets brought Federer swinging into contention in the seventh game in which the Swiss ace landed a decisive break, good enough for him to close out the opening set, 6-4.

Rafa responded like a champion, racing away to a 4-0 lead in the second set before Federer got a break back to reduce the deficit, Nadal eventually closing out the set 6-3.

Momentum swings were the only constants in this match and it was Federer's turn to take control in the third set, the Swiss running away with it 6-1 courtesy of a double break.

Nadal though came storming back in the fourth after Federer shanked a few forehands and picked up a vital break in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. It was good enough to secure him the fourth set and send the match into a decisive fifth.

A break of serve in the opening game of the decider appeared to have settled the tie in the Spaniard's favour, but with the match seemingly out of his grasp, trailing 1-3 in the fifth, Federer came back swinging hard and held serve to stay alive in the contest.

Federer broke back in the sixth game at the second attempt to bring the set back on level terms, and followed it up with a hold to love to nudge ahead 4-3.

The match came down to a fantastic eighth game in which Nadal finally capitulated on the fifth break point, setting up Federer to serve for the title at 5-3. Nadal tried bravely to hang in, but to no avail with Federer clinching the title at the second attempt.

Federer shared after his triumph, "I'm out of words... I'd like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback. I don't think either of us believed we'd be in the final of the Australian Open when we were at your academy four or five months ago. But here were stand. Tennis is a tough sport – there are no draws. But if there was one, I would have been happy to accept a draw with Rafa tonight, really."

Federer, who will rise to No.10 in the world with the victory, earned his first win over Nadal in four meetings at the Australian Open, and won just his third major final over the Spaniard in nine attempts. The Swiss, who returned this year after a six-month injury lay-off, is now 12-23 in their head to head matches.

For Nadal, he has come a long way from crying in the car on the way back to the hotel after injury forced him out of the 2016 French Open. The ninth-ranked left-hander is now set to rise to No.6 in the rankings.