Only the trophy and the tears were missing from this latest Grand Slam instalment of Roger vs Rafa ! Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were on opposite sides of the net on Thursday, meeting in the semi finals of the Australian Open. The last time the duo clashed in semi finals was way back in 2005 at Roland Garros where a 18 year old Nadal beat world number one Roger Federer and went on to win his 1st of 6 French Open titles. And Nadal was the winner again, beating Federer in 4 sets of high quality tennis. With this win, Nadal bettered his record over Federer in Grand Slams to 8-2.
The Spaniard won 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(5),6-4 in nearly four hours. Rafa played some unbelievable shots covering the baseline with incredible speed and hitting forehand winners from almost impossible angles. He came back strongly after losing the 1st set on tie break and being a break down early in the 2nd set to clinch the match and enter finals. All this was after Roger Federer started off in the most perfect fashion hitting forehand and backhand winners down the line with utmost precision. At times, even Rafael Nadal failed to reach Roger Federer’s shots due to sharp angles implied by the Swiss Maestro. Federer was hitting the ball as cleanly as Sachin Tendulkar hits the cricket ball, and was continuously pushing Nadal well behind the baseline with his aggression. The only way you could have described Federer was : Elegance Personified ! But to his disappointment, on the other side of the net was a player who had redefined determination and will. Nadal kept digging in and came back strongly in 2nd set to win it 6-2. Rafa didn’t let his foot off the throttle since, and finally disposed off his old nemesis Roger Federer to enter his 4th consecutive grand slam final.
Nadal has laboured with injuries since losing U.S. Open final, and he did talk about having time off next month to let his sore shoulder heal. On the eve of the tournament, he hurt his knee and the news of Nadal withdrawing from Aussie Open was doing regular rounds of all news channels. He has been playing with his right knee heavily strapped, but still hasn’t shown any signs of injury.
The 10th Grand Slam meeting between Nadal and Federer equalled the record for individual major matchups since the Open era began in 1968. Ivan Lendl beat John McEnroe in 7 of their 10 meetings. Nadal now leads Federer 8-2. Nadal has won the last 5 Grand Slam matches they have played, four of them in finals.
Nadal will play either Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray in Sunday’s final. While he has had a great record against Murray, Nadal lost 6 finals against Djokovic only in 2011. You don’t need to guess whom Nadal wishes to face in finals. But being the champion he is, he wouldn’t bother who his opponent is and would just aim to put up yet another amazing performance.