Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are set to do battle in what organisers have declared the biggest Australian Open final in the tournament’s 105-year history.
Twenty-four hours after Serena Williams denied sister Venus in the women’s decider, Federer and Nadal will also roll back the years in a ‘retro’ men’s final on Rod Laver Arena.
A strong crowd had already begun to file in to Melbourne Park on Sunday afternoon, hours before one of the most hotly anticipated clashes in recent history.
Officials will take the unprecedented step of opening up Margaret Court Arena and telecasting the final on a big screen inside the 7,500-seat stadium, with the champion set to speak at the venue after the match.
“It’ll be the biggest crowd (at Melbourne Park) for a finals’ weekend, for sure,” tournament director Craig Tiley said.
“From a global audience point of view, we know last year our event surpassed 350 million globally that watched it. All the indicators that we’ve got as we stand here now (suggest) that we’ll surpass that number.
“From an Australian Open final point of view, from a global point of view and I think from a stadium point of view, it’ll be the biggest (ever).”
The appearances of Serena (35 years old), Venus (36), Roger (35) and Rafa (30) in the championship matches marks the first time the veteran quartet have played off for the men’s and women’s trophies since Wimbledon in 2008.
Federer, already the men’s all-time major title leader, is attempting to win his 18th, four and a half years after last reigning at one of tennis’s four biggest events.
It is also the Swiss master’s first tournament back since breaking down at Wimbledon last July with a recurrence of a knee injury he required surgery for five months earlier.
Nadal, chasing his 15th major, is hoping to crown his own comeback from an injury-ravaged 2016 season and re-enter the conversation about who is the sport’s greatest modern-day player.