28 January, 2017
The first half of the Australian Open men's singles finals has been locked in after Roger Federer's ousting of Stan Wawrinka in the semis.
Rafa Nadal had to be at his battling best to outlast Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 5-7 7-6 (5) 6-7 (4) 6-4 at the Australian Open on Friday and set up a mouth-watering ninth grand slam final meeting with his great rival Roger Federer.The Spaniard looked every inch a 14-times grand slam champion as he slugged it out with his 25-year-old opponent over almost five hours on Rod Laver Arena to reach his first major final since the 2014 French Open and 21st overall."Grigor was playing unbelievable, it was a great match", the 30-year-old said. Raonic was leading 5-3 in tie break but Nadal roared back to win 9-7.
Nadal will be chasing his 15th Grand Slam title to edge one closer to Federer, who stands on the brink of his 18th.
Nadal and Federer, arguably the greatest rivals in tennis history, haven't met in a Grand Slam final since the 2011 French Open when the Spaniard came through in four sets.
The same was true for 35-year-old Federer, who had fallen to No.17 in the world after six months out following knee surgery last year. At 35, Federer is the oldest male player to advance to a Grand Slam final since 1974.
But Nadal has had his fair share of success on faster courts with two U.S. Open and two Wimbledon titles.
"It feels incredible. I never felt in my wildest dreams I would be coming this far in Australia". But in order to join him, Nadal had to overcome the man once dubbed "Baby Fed" in Dimitrov. To qualify for the final like this means a lot to me. Nadal had been poised to win in four sets - but Dimitrov used his mobility and a booming serve to prolong the match at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena, and his creativity and lashing backhand gave Nadal fits.
"If I am not playing aggressive, then I am dead", warned Nadal prior to his match against Raonic, who defeated him in three sets at the Brisbane International.
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"I don't really know".
Nadal tried to play down the hype of the historic match in his post match press conference, insisting he is only looking as far as his semi-final against No. 15 seed Grigor Dimitrov.
Dimitrov threatened to derail Melbourne's dream reunion by twice coming from behind to force a decider, but Nadal was relentless, powering his way through to his 21st major final and first since winning the French Open in 2014.
Lucic-Baroni won her first singles match at Melbourne Park in 1998 but had to wait 19 years for her second victory in the year's opening grand slam last week.
"It is normal, even when I was winning a lot I have doubts so you can imagine I have more when I am not winning and have injuries". A day later, Grigor Dimitrov led Nadal 4-3 in the fifth and had two break points on Rafa's serve.
"I'm happy we've had some epic battles over the years".
Nadal took some moments to commend Dimitrov after converting his third match point, pointing toward the 25-year-old Bulgarian and gesturing to the cheering crowd like a conductor acknowledging his orchestra.
Nadal said it was "not a problem" that the men's semifinal were played on different days.