MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Rafael Nadal rallied to stop Roger Federer 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-4 on Thursday night to advance to his second Australian Open final.
The two men battled in the semifinal with incredible shot-making and stamina in the three hour and 42 minute match.
â€œI thought Rafa played well from start to finish, really,â€ said Federer.Â â€œI started really well myself.Â It was obviously a big set for me to win, and missed obviously the opportunities in some of all the sets maybe.
But Rafa did well to hang in there.Â At the end was a bit better.Â It was a tough match physically as well, but, you know, only beginning of the season.
“I’m feeling all right, so it’s okay.”
Commenting on his forehand which seemed errant during parts of the match, Federer said, â€œI don’t think it was that bad.Â I’m always gonna miss forehands because I have to go after the ball.Â If I just put it into play he’ll smack it.Â So it’s pretty simple.Â I have to keep him driving it, and obviously at times I clipped the tape a bit too often.
â€œBut I hit flatter than Rafa, so it’s always gonna happen, some of it.Â I thought I retrieved well again.Â Obviously the surface is not the fastest, but he does a good job getting a lot of balls back and staying in the points.
â€œAnd then obviously he’s got great passing shots and so forth.Â You have to, you know, go after it and try your best there.
â€œWe have had good matches over the years.Â I enjoy playing him.Â The crowd really gets into it, which is nice.Â We have a lot of respect for each other, which is good, too, I think.
“I hope it inspires future generations or other players, you know, being nice to each other on the court and all that stuff.
â€œYou know, works as well at the highest of levels.Â Yeah, we also kind of, you know, play well against each other.Â I always think he plays a bit better against me than against other players, but that’s good for him.â€
Federer started the match off strongly breaking Nadal and building a 4-1 lead. In the seventh game of the first set Nadal broke Federer ar 30 and both med held for the rest of the set to get to a tiebreak Federer won the tiebreak 7-5.
The second set began with Federer breaking Nadal at love and Nadal returning the favor in the very next game. Both men held until the sixth game when Nadal broke Federerâ€™s serve and the Spaniard broke serve again at 5-2, a game after a ten minute break in the match due to the Australia Day fireworks to capture the second set 6-2. Federer lost 11 consecutive points after the break for fireworks.
The third set saw both men steadily hold their serves, which forced a third set tiebreak. Nadal cruised to a 6-1 lead and Federer crept back to make it 6-5, but Nadal closed the tiebreak on his serve clinching it 7-5.
In the fourth set Federer saved a break point in the third game and two break points in the fifth game. Nadal saved a break point in the eighth game. Nadal broke Federer in the ninth game. While serving for the match Nadal faced two break points but finally won on his second match point. After the match he came back onto the court and fell to his knees to celebrate the victory.
Nadal’s consistency from the baseline forced Federer into 63 unforced errors to Nadal’s 46 winners and 96 points won on the baseline. Nadal raises his record versus Federer to 18-9
Nadal who won the Australian Open in 2009 will try to win a second title against the winner of Novak Djokovic or fourth seed Andy Murray, who meet in the second semifinal on Friday night.
Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News
(Article to be updated after news conferences)