On a breezy night at Rod Laver Arena, the 2009 champion notched
his sixth straight win in grand slams over the Swiss, stunning his
opponent with a master class of clean hitting to book a title-decider
with Stanislas Wawrinka.
Dominating Federer in the first set tiebreak, the Spaniard broke
twice to charge through the second, and captured the decisive break
in the third at 3-3 when his opponent blasted into the net-cord and
the deflection sailed long.
Hitting winners from all corners, Nadal raised two match-points as
Federer served to stay in the match and sealed it on the second when
the shellshocked Swiss shanked a forehand long.
Nadal punched his left fist into the night sky and roared in triumph
while a demoralized Federer gave a cursory wave before trudging to
"I think tonight I played my best match of the tournament, so I'm
very happy for that," top seed Nadal, who missed last year's
tournament through illness, said in a courtside interview.
"After missing last year, for me it's really emotional to be back on
this court, in Rod Laver.
"I never thought about having 14 (slams), the only thing I can swear
is that I'm going to try my best," the 13-times grand slam champion
said of his prospects for the final.
The lopsided result will refuel the debate as to the greatest
player of all time, with Nadal extending his head-to-head dominance
over Federer to 23-10, and thrashing him on a hard court, the most
democratic of surfaces.
A runaway victory seemed an absurd notion early, as the pair parried
and probed in the opening games.
Nadal was impenetrable on serve and demanded Federer meet him in a
tiebreak, where the Swiss promptly stumbled.
Throwing his opponent from side to side, the Spaniard played it
completely on his terms, roaring to a 5-1 lead and closing the set
out when Federer sent an increasingly shaky backhand sailing past
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Frustrated by Nadal's stifling consistency, Federer was further
agitated after the Spaniard left the court between sets and then
had treatment on his blistered hand at the first change of ends.
Federer was forced to defend three break points at 2-1 and
survived only by an inch shown up on the "Hawk-eye" technology
after a successful challenge on a line call.
An outrageous cross-court passing shot steered from a seemingly
impossible angle gave Nadal another look at Federer's serve at
3-2 and he smacked an inside-out forehand to leave Federer
flat-footed, broken and in deep trouble.
Serving for the set, Nadal wobbled to 0-30, but closed it out
with four straight points.
An unkind net-cord put Federer on the rack at 15-40 again on
serve, and he was unable to breach it with another backhand to
slump to an early break in the third game.
Against all logic and reason, Nadal shanked a forehand to give
up two break points and then fired another just past the
baseline to allow Federer to break back.
Having been marginally off all night, Federer flirted with the
net-cord again and was broken to 4-3.
Smelling blood, Nadal pounced as the teetering Swiss served to
stay in the match, closing out the contest with a dizzying array
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; editing by Justin Palmer)
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