In an epic, four-set match that brought back memories of their earlier battles when the two men were unquestionably the sports top two talents, Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in the semifinals of the Australian Open on Thursday night. The younger Nadal now clearly outclasses the aging, albeit still top-flight Federer, holding a career record of 6-2 against Federer in Grand Slam finals.
Nadal, who dealt with a balky right knee that he injured a couple of weeks ago, beat the Swedish legend 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4, and called the outcome a “dream.” The Spaniard will take on the winner of returning champ Novak Djokovic and Englishman Andy Murray, who play Friday.
Prior to Djokovic’s victory in 2011 down under, Federer took home the 2010 title for his record 16th Grand Slam title, and Nadal won the 2009 championship.
“I thought Rafa played well from start to finish. It was a tough match physically as well. I’m disappointed, but it’s only the beginning of the season,” said Federer. “I’m feeling all right, so it’s OK.”
It won’t show up in the record books, but one pivotal play was a 10-minute delay in the second set due to a fireworks show for Australian Day. After the pause, the older Federer had trouble keeping up with the prime-of-life Spanish sensation. Federer said the delay was “tough,” but didn’t use it as an excuse for the loss.
“It’s not helpful, that’s for sure,” he said. “They told us before, so it was no surprise.”
The crowd was filled to the brim, with over 15,000 attending the match, split about half and half for the two competitors. They watched the two greats slug it out until the end of the fourth set, when Nadal almost lost a 6-1 lead, but eventually closed out Federer with his final set point before a tiebreaker could have settled the score.
“Please win the point, that’s all,” Nadal said he told himself at the end. “I was very, very nervous at that moment. Losing four set points in a row is tough, especially when you play the toughest in history.”