Nadal too good for Federer again
MELBOURNE, Australia—The way Rafael Nadal managed to somehow retrieve a forehand midway through the second set shocked even Roger Federer, who has been on the receiving end of the Spaniard’s unbelievable shots more than anyone else in Grand Slams.
It was a tipping point in their Australian Open semi-final. Federer had lost the first-set tiebreaker but still was throwing his whole arsenal at Nadal.
Nadal lunged for a desperate forehand—swinging just as the ball was about to bounce for the second time and angling it back over the net.
Federer, in good position but not expecting he’d need to play another shot, framed a volley.
It gave Nadal a break point, and he quickly broke Federer for the first time in the match.
He completed his 23rd win in 33 head-to-heads, and ninth in 11 Grand Slam matches, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3 in two hours, 24 minutes against the 17-time major winner.
A win over another Swiss—No. 8-seeded Stan Wawrinka—in Sunday’s final would give Nadal a 14th Grand Slam title and make him the first man to win all four majors at least twice in the Open era.
Nadal missed the 2013 Australian Open during a seven-month layoff for illness and a knee injury, but returned to win the French and U.S. Opens among his 10 titles for the season and finished the year at No. 1.
By reaching his first major final with a win over Tomas Berdych on Thursday night, Wawrinka ensured he’d replace Federer as Switzerland’s highest-ranked player for the first time.
But the 32-year-old Federer is confident of returning to his old winning ways—expecting some coaching from Stefan Edberg and continued improvement in his fitness to help after a slump in 2013, when he didn’t reach any of the major finals for the first time in 11 years.
“I still think my best tennis is only ahead of me now,” he remarked.
Nadal, meanwhile, is now second on the list of players reaching Grand Slam finals, joining Ivan Lendl on 19—Federer leads the list with 24.
Another Grand Slam title would lift Nadal to equal second on the all-time list with Pete Sampras, who was in the crowd for the match.
Li Na will be hoping for third time lucky in the women’s final on Saturday against Dominika Cibulkova.
The 2011 French Open champ has reached the Australian Open final in three of the past four years, but is yet to win the title.