March 24, 2017

Australian Open 2017: Rafael Nadal relishes Roger Federer reunion

28 January 2017, 12:33 | Ella Tate

Nadal won the Australian Open title in 2009 against Federer Reuters

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will meet in a grand slam final for the first time in six years after the Spaniard's thrilling Australian Open semi-final win over Grigor Dimitrov. Nadal made it to his first Grand Slam final since 2014 after a almost five-hour-long semifinal match against Grigor Dimitrov that began in Melbourne on Friday evening and didn't wrap up until 12:44 a.m. local time Saturday.

Beset by a wrist injury in 2016, not to mention other ailments in recent years, Nadal hadn't progressed to a grand slam final since winning the 2014 French Open.

The most successful male tennis player in history will face the victor of Friday's semi-final between Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov. Wawrinka has won three major titles, while Federer has failed to win a Grand Slam since 2012.

The Australian Open this time has been a bit of a dream with Serena Williams and Venus Williams booking their place in the women's final.

But Wawrinka, who won the 2014 title at Melbourne Park, returned from the injury time-out a driven man and attempted to rip the chapter from the fairytale book.

Nadal now leads the rivalry with a 23-11 record, and he's also beaten Federer each time they've met at the Australian Open, including the 2009 finals and semi-final matchups in 2012 and 2014. Fighting to save the opener, the Bulgarian nailed a fine backhand down the line but Nadal swiftly stamped out hope of a comeback as he served out for the set with a vicious volley inside 35 minutes. He beat Federer in five in the final that year - his only title so far in Australia.

"We were supposed to play an exhibition match", Nadal said. But it was the 2009 champion who drew first blood, breaking Dimitrov in the fourth game when his whipped forehand was too hot for his opponent to handle.

Roger Federer is set to go head-to-head with Switzerland's number two player Stan Wawrinka in the 2017 Australian Open Semi-Final.

"I knew it was not going to be easy", Dimitrov said. The victor of this match will take on Roger Federer.

Federer won their last meeting - at Basel's Swiss Indoors in 2015 - but that was his first on a hard court against Nadal for three years. "I think both of us would never have thought we would be here playing in the finals".

While defeat will hurt, the quality of Dimitrov's shot-making, and more significantly his resilience against the game's ultimate warrior, should fuel his belief that he will soon become Bulgaria's first grand slam singles finalist.

After clinching his 21st win in 24 major semifinals, the 30-year-old Nadal dropped to the court behind the baseline and lay face down for several seconds before getting up and embracing Dimitrov at the net.

"But the real thing is I felt good from inside, and I felt that I was putting some pressure on him".

Federer could have an advantage Sunday, having played a day earlier than Nadal, on the blue hardcourts of Melbourne.

Nadal lost here in the first round to Fernando Verdasco 12 months ago and admitted to wondering if he might never challenge for major honours again.

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