By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Rafael Nadal def. Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 5-7 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-4
- Few thought they would ever see a Slam final between the pair again
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – The organisers get a throwback final that few thought we would ever witness again as Roger Federer will face Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s final.
Rafael Nadal def. Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 5-7 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-4
Following on from the five set battle between Roger Federer & Stan Wawrinka, it looked as though perhaps the resistance of Grigor Dimitrov would struggle to keep up with the pace from Rafael Nadal as the Spaniard imposed himself decisively, whipping up a 4-1 lead.
While Dimitrov was able to advance slightly up the score-board the first set slipped by him very quickly. But credit to the Bulgarian who knuckled down and fought for his chances to turn the tables on Nadal – building up his own 1-4 lead. His attempts to hold onto the advantage were a little shakier, trading breaks and letting four set points slip away before grabbing the set to level the match.
It was too much to hope that the Bulgarian would be able to consolidate from that position as Nadal pushed back to break midway through the third set. Give the boy some credit though, he broke straight back as the pair forced a tie-break but Nadal’s nerves held out as he took a 2-1 lead.
The fourth set saw no break point chances at all as the level of play rose to superb levels from the pair, and Dimitrov was able to erase the disappointment of the previous tie-break levelling the match once more.
Nadal was going for the jugular from the first game of the decider, forcing Dimitrov to save three break points, and with the Bulgarian bringing up chances of his own, but his lack of ability to convert cost him as Nadal finally got the break for a 5-4 lead, converting on a third match point to extend his rivalry with Federer on Sunday.
Rafael Nadal  v Roger Federer  – H2H: Nadal leads 23-11
While the pair have confounded pundits in their abilities to come back after injuries and knock-backs (Nadal, most noticeably), few would have predicted this outcome as the pair made their respective comebacks to the tour.
Federer was candid about the effect that Nadal had on his career during his peak Slam winning days, and especially in 2008. There is no doubt this has been one of the most enduring rivalries but taking a look at the head to head, it feels quite lopsided.
Age is just a number, but both have been through gruelling five-setters to get here in the semi-finals and the turn-around is shorter for the Spaniard, but his grit and aggression will most likely be a tidal wave that Federer will have to get over from the start of the match.
The Swiss cannot afford a slow start against him, but has the variety to mix things up to get things back on course. He will want to avoid getting into heavy battles from the baseline and while we generally roll our eyes at the hype over the ‘sneak attack by Roger’ he will need to push forward and be very aggressive from the outset to stay on terms.
Many had written off the pair – so this is indeed a treat for tennis fans, but be careful not to put too much store in the restoration of the ‘old order’ – this is the first Slam of the year, and we have seen some remarkable promise and performances along the way.
Nadal’s confidence in his forehand, especially after the wrist injuries make him very formidable and we saw in the semi-final how he nullified the Dimitrov back-hand making it far more of a defensive shot just to get the ball back into play.
Above all though – With the additional voice of Carlos Moya in the team, finally Nadal is trying to employ new elements to his game instead of blindly sticking with the established team lead by his Toni Nadal. This seems to have been the most key with Nadal’s approach on court – we do see him advancing p the court a lot more.
Prediction: A tough one to call but Nadal in five sets.
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