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The top 5 most memorable moments in Australian Open history

John McEnroe
THE Australian Open is just under week away and anticipation is building for what could be one of the most even Grand Slam tournaments in recent memory.

Andy Murray may be the world number one, but his loss to Novak Djokovic in Qatar on the weekend could put doubts in the mind of a man who has made the final five times at Melbourne Park without reward.

It looms as the must-watch event of the Australian summer, which prompted us to go back and look at the top five memorable moments of the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific.

Whether it be titanic battles, major upsets or huge dummy spits – the Australian Open has seen it all.

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5. Lleyton Hewitt topples Marcos Bahgdatis in an early morning slug-fest

This match is an underrated one given it was only a third round tussle, but Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Bahgdatis – both of whom had previously made it through to the Australian Open final – played in an enthralling battle which entered tennis record books.

The two men took to the court just before midnight and went on to play a five-set thriller which finished just before 5am. Hewitt prevailed in the match, but later went on to lose in straight sets against eventual champion Novak Djokovic.

It is still the latest finish to a match at any Grand Slam in the history of the sport.

4. John McEnroe gets disqualified from the 1990 Australian Open

Leave it to the original ‘superbrat’ of tennis to become the first player since 1963 – and the last player as of 2017 – to get disqualified from a Grand Slam tournament.

In a third round match against an opponent he was meant to breeze past, the wild child of tennis was issued a first violation for intimidating a line judge. His second transgression was for smashing a racquet and his third and final strike was for swearing at an umpire and tournament official.

So forgive us if we find it ironic that McEnroe dares to scold Nick Kyrgios for his apparent petulance.

3. Rafael Nadal overcomes compatriot Fernando Verdasco in the 2009 semi-final

This match may not get the plaudits it truly deserves, given it was the penultimate match of the tournament, but it is in the eyes of many the greatest match ever to take place at the Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal came into the match up as the best player in the world, but an increased dedication to diet and conditioning allowed Fernando Verdasco to hit his peak at the Australian Open and he was arguably the player of the tournament up until that point.

The word epic does not do the 5-hour, 14-minute battle – that is to this day the second longest ever match at the Australian Open – justice.

Nadal would go on to win the match and ultimately his first ever hard court singles title, but the embrace the men displayed after the conclusion of the match tells you all you need to know about the magnitude of this match.

2. Djokovic and Nadal go the distance in the 2012 Australian Open final

In case you were wondering what the longest match in Australian Open history was, the 2012 men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal dislodged the semi-final epic from the top spot.

In a match that went 5 hours and 52 minutes – the longest Grand Slam final in the history of the sport – the Serbian and the Spaniard went toe-to-toe in what is considered the greatest final in the Open area.

Both men overcame muscle cramps, hallucinations and dehydration to go the distance, but it was Djokovic who inflicted Nadal just his second ever career loss after taking an opening set.

Such was the brutality of the five setter, Australian open organisers had to give the duo a chair to sit on at the trophy presentation.

1. Safin shocks Federer en route to the 2005 Australian Open title

The Nadal vs Verdasco semi-final will go down as one of the best matches we have seen in Australia, but the Safin vs. Federer five-set encounter in 2005 is a worthy competitor to that title.

Even though firebrand Marat Safin was the number four seed at the 2005 Australian Open, few gave the Russian a chance of toppling the world number one, Roger Federer.

The Fed at this point was truly at the peak of his powers. The Swiss maestro had not lost in 26 consecutive matches and had not dropped a set at the Australian Open leading up to the semi-final against Safin.

The heavy-hitting Russian would not be denied in this match however. Safin out-hit and out-lasted Federer for much of the match to shock the tennis world and make his way through to a second Grand Slam final.

Safin would conquer Australian livewire Lleyton Hewitt just two days later to claim his maiden Australian Open title.

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