Rafael Nadal wins thriller to set up marquee final vs

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will extend their Open Era record of meeting each other in the most Grand Slam finals when they make it their ninth encounter on Sunday.

It is the first time since the US Open of 2015 that Federer has been in a Slam final. But not until the final break of the match, when Nadal finally nabbed the decisive 5-4 lead did Dimitrov look exhausted. He clinched the match soon after in the tiebreak, winning his 14th consecutive final.

“Last but not least I’d like to thank Rod Laver. for the trophy”, Federer sobbed, after beating Marcos Baghdatis in four sets.

And Dimitrov, serving from behind in the fourth set, kept his composure into that stanza’s tiebreak and was able to stay focused and play tactically flawless in the breaker to push the match into a deciding set.

Earlier, Dimitrov dismantled 11th seed David Goffin 6-3 6-2 6-4 to advance to his second grand slam semi-final. And for the 22nd time in their careers, they will be facing off in a final, this time at the 2017 Australian Open. Both Federer and Nadal missed the back end of last season because of injury, the Swiss after his first ever knee surgery and Nadal because of a wrist injury.

To his credit, Dimitrov hung in there in the fourth to force another breaker, twice holding comfortably when serving to stay in the match.

No. 15-seeded Dimitrov conceded only nine games to 11th-seeded Belgian David Goffin in a clinical warm-up for his semifinal with Nadal.

For Nadal, it’s his second five set win of the tournament (the first over top teenager Alexander “Sascha” Zverev in the third round) after losing five-setters in his last three hardcourt majors.

Although Federer rebounded to win the second set, Nadal’s ability to fight off break point opportunities and his high-kicking left-handed forehands were the telling factors and too much for Federer to handle. They have only met once previously in an Australian Open final, albeit back in 2009, and Federer won in five sets.

Federer, who also needed five sets to get past world number four and fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the semis, spoke of the “magnitude” of his match against Nadal. But Nadal’s blistering passes and serve and volley kept him in the match. “That’s one of the things that he improved a lot”.

“Rafa’s given me the most problems in the game”.

“It’s incredible to be through to a final of Grand Slam again here in Australia at the start of the year”, he said. He won the third set.

“I don’t think both of us though we were going to be here, potentially playing in the final, because I went to open his academy in Mallorca with him a few months back and I told him ‘I wish we could do a charity match or something'”.

In their only Australian Open final meeting until this weekend, Serena outlasted her big sister, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4, to complete her first “Serena Slam” (four majors in a row).

Nadal knows he is in for a tough semi-final outing against Dimitrov, who has only dropped two sets so far in Melbourne but the Spaniard is confident of bringing out his best against his opponent.

Raonic was wayward with his volleying and made errors on crucial points to take the heat off Nadal.

After the fourth set, Federer took a cue from his countryman and did something odd for a guy who notoriously speeds matches along: He took a medical timeout to treat an adductor muscle injury in his leg.

The No. 5-seeded Pliskova, who beat Serena Williams in the semifinals at the U.S. Open past year before losing to Angelique Kerber in the final, rallied to win the second set 6-3.

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