Photo: Paul ZimmerRafael Nadal (ESP)
Rafael Nadal disposed of Roger Federer in straight sets, 76(4) 63 63, to advance to the Australian Open final for the third time as he looks to become only the second man ever to win each of the four Grand Slam titles twice.
Federer has now failed to defeat the Spaniard in each of their last six meetings at the majors with his last victory coming in the 2007 Wimbledon final.
With so much history between the two player’s Nadal used his time prior to the match to prepare for the aggressive start that Federer made to the encounter: “If you go to YouTube and you see the video of 2012 match, you will see that he was playing very, very aggressive. Especially the beginning of the match. So is nothing completely new.”
“I saw that video today, the morning. I see the way that he will try to play again. But important thing for me is serve well, resist the beginning. I know he will try to go on court going for the winners, taking the ball very early.”
The Swiss No. 1 saved three break points in the first set as both men held serve throughout to force a tiebreak, which saw Nadal impose his will on the match as he won five of the first six points before serving it out to douse the hopes of an all-Swiss final on Sunday.
“I played well tonight. I think I played probably my best match of the tournament,” reported Nadal after the match. “Was decisive to win that first set…a tough first set…I played solid at the end of the tiebreak.”
As Nadal continued to hold with relative ease in the second set, Federer felt the pressure and even a medical time out for treatment to the blistered hands of the world No. 1 could not halt his progress. Three break points came and went in the fifth game of the set but Federer could not repeat the feat two games later.
There was little surprise as Nadal held serve twice comfortably following the break to open up a two set lead and put one foot solidly into the final, having only once previously lost from the position.
A break early in the third set for Nadal seemed to provoke a reaction as Federer finally found some momentum on return and earned his first break points and got the set back on serve at the second time of asking.
The lack of penetration into Nadal’s serve dented the game-plan for Federer and he revealed that it prevented him from playing as he would have wanted on his owns serve: “I thought I was going to get into more of his service games. If you get the lead at least in the first or second set, at one point maybe I can also play a bit more freely, play a bit more aggressive.”
Thoughts of a comeback were short-lived, however, as Federer’s backhand broke down as he repeatedly dumped the ball into the net at key moments to hand the break back almost immediately and then once more to give his opponent the win.
Standing in the way in the final is another Swiss playerin the form of Stanislas Wawrinka, who will now move above Federer when the rankings are released on Monday. Ominously, Nadal is yet to drop a set in their previous 12 meetings but he knows that he will still have to play at the highest level to emerge the champion.
“He's playing great. He's a good friend, great guy. So happy for him that he's in the final. He deserves it. He's playing better and better every year.”
“He's serving unbelievable. He's hitting the ball very strong from the baseline. Very, very quick. I know will be a very, very tough match. If I am not able to play my best, I think I will not have chances because he's coming to this match with a lot of victories and playing great.”
Federer was pleased with his tournament overall but did admit that there was one thing that will stay with him: “Wish I could have won here tonight and then given an all‑Swiss final. That's something I'll regret for a long time.
The women’s doubles title was decided prior to the men’s semifinal with Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci taking on Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, with the teams splitting the opening sets to set up a dramatic finale.
The Russian pairing moved ahead in the set and was within one game of the title when the match swung back in favour of the Italian’s who reeled off five straight games to defend their crown, 64 36 75.
The ITF produces men's match notes at the Australian Open. For a full list of the notes please click here.