12:14 pm - Thursday June 13, 2024

Rafael Nadal sees off Roger Federer to win through to Australian Open final

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Rafael Nadal at Australian Open third round
Rafael Nadal at Australian Open third round

Nadal advanced to his 19th major final with a brutal 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 6-3 demolition of archrival Federer and will tomorrow night face the Swiss’ understudy and compatriot Stan Wawrinka.

If Nadal handles Wawrinka, he will join American Pete Sampras as the winner of 14 majors to trail only Federer, who has 17 grand slam crowns.

And he would become only the third man in history to claim all four majors at least twice after Queenslanders Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.

The Spanish bull already has a record eight French Open, two Wimbledon and two US Open titles – and he won the 2009 Melbourne Park trophy.

He was overjoyed after dispatching Federer for the 23rd time in 33 meetings.

“I think tonight I played my best match of the tournament,” he said,

“After missing last year (with injury), it is very special to be back on Rod Laver Arena and into another final.

“In the first set, it was tough. I think I resisted very well because he was trying to play very aggressive, he was taking the ball early.”

Despite holding a 12-0 record against Wawrinka, Nadal said he was expecting a tough match.

“Wawrinka is playing amazing, winning against Novak (Djokovic) and (Tomas) Berdych,” he said.

“He will come to the court with confidence.

“I need to keep playing great, his serve is huge, he is hitting the ball very hard.

“I’m gonna try to play aggressive, I need to play the way I did tonight.”

Nadal’s success last night is the latest chapter in an extraordinary comeback from career-threatening knee injury.

Nadal missed seven months after Wimbledon in June 2012 until February last year – yet resumed to totally dominate.

Since returning to competition, Nadal has won 11 titles from 16 tournaments, including the French and US Opens, also reclaiming the world No. 1 ranking.

And he showed last night precisely how he managed the feat, mercilessly destroying his old foe with a relentless bombardment.

Nadal’s backhand was magnificent, his forehand impregnable.

Statistics bore out his excellence. The left-hander blasted 28 winners, 13 from the forehand, 10 from the backhand.

His serve, supposedly weakened by a nasty hand blister, was stunning and he made only 25 unforced errors.

Outgunned, Federer desperately tried everything to staunch the flow, but he was powerless.

From early in the second set there was a sense of inevitability as Nadal sapped the resistance from Federer’s legs with protracted rallies.

Resuming an epic rivalry in a prize fight atmosphere, Nadal and Federer quickly settled into familiar roles – Federer the adventurous attacker, Nadal the dogged defender.

The first significant trend emerged mid-set when Nadal engineered break point opportunities in the seventh and ninth games as the Spaniard targeted Federer’s backhand.

Federer was equal to the occasion as Nadal pummelled the Swiss before taking control in the tiebreak when, ironically, Federer’s devastating forehand malfunctioned.

As deflating as it was for Federer to concede a crucial opening set in 59 minutes, an even more ominous pattern was emerging as Nadal’s physicality began to impact.

Worse, the grand slam record-holder was also distracted and irked by Nadal’s grunting.

Federer complained at length to chair umpire Jake Garner after the third game of the second set, emerging to dodge another crisis when he saved three break points.

There was no escape two games later when Nadal ripped a monster forehand into open territory before surging to a 5-2 buffer.

Cradling a huge lead, Nadal maintained the intensity into the third set as Federer resignedly netted a backhand volley to lose serve once more at 1-2.

It took Federer two hours to secure his first service break to level at 2-all, but the reprieve was short-lived.

A forehand that ballooned off the top of the net tape and cleared the baseline gave Nadal his third service break – and this time there was no mistake.

Nor was there an escape and after another service break it was over in 2hrs 24min.

Wawrinka will contest his first grand slam final after a tough four-set win over Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych on Thursday night.

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