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AUSTRALIAN OPEN

ROGER FEDERER

Nadal knocks out Federer in Melbourne semi

Rafael Nadal extended his mastery over long-time rival Roger Federer as he stormed into an Australian Open final against Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets on Friday.

Nadal knocks out Federer in Melbourne semi
Rafael Nadal will line up in his third Australian final against Stanislas Wawrinka and he has yet to lose to the Swiss eighth seed in 12 matches. Photo: Greg Wood/AFP

Spanish top seed Nadal defeated the 17-time Grand Slam champion 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-3 in a dominant semi-final win lasting two hours and 24 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

Federer was confident of a better showing after failing to beat Nadal in Grand Slams since the 2007 Wimbledon final, but the world number one was relentless in taking apart the much-decorated Swiss.

In 33 meetings in their great, if one-sided, rivalry, Nadal now leads Federer 23-10 and has won their last six matches in Slams as well as their last five meetings on all stages.

Nadal, the 2009 champion, will line up in his third Australian final against Wawrinka and he has yet to lose to the Swiss eighth seed in 12 matches.

"We played some really tough rallies at the end of the first set and I resisted really well because Roger was trying to play very aggressive and taking the ball very early," Nadal said.

"I think tonight I played my best match of the tournament, so I am very happy for that."

With the loss, Federer also ceded the mantle of Switzerland's number one player, an honour he has held since 2001, to Wawrinka.

Nadal, seemingly untroubled by a large blister on his serving hand, progressively got stronger during the semi-final and broke Federer's serve four times and lost his only once.

Nadal hit 28 winners to 25 unforced errors, while under-pressure Federer made 50 unforced errors and won just 23 of 42 points he contested at the net.

It will be the Spaniard's 19th Grand Slam final on Sunday and he will be bidding for his 14th major title to tie American Pete Sampras in joint second place behind Federer on the all-time list.

Federer fought off break points in two service games before taking the opening set to a tiebreaker, but volleying errors cost the Swiss and Nadal cruised to the first set with two set points.

The gap widened in the second set with Nadal ruthless in his groundstrokes and putting Federer under pressure to hold serve in the fourth game, before breaking him with a forehand winner in his next service game.

Whatever Federer sent back over the net, the Spanish world number returned with a vengeance and he ripped a series of stunning forehand winners to take a two-sets-to-love lead.

Both players exchanged service breaks early in the third set but Nadal broke Federer for a second time to lead 4-3 and close in on victory.

Nadal broke Federer again in the ninth game and won on his second match point, and the tournament's four-time winner left the arena with his head bowed.

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RAFAEL NADAL

‘I was down mentally and physically’ admits Rafa Nadal on winning 12th Roland Garros title

Rafael Nadal admitted that his record 12th Roland Garros title was one of his most special after an injury-hit start to 2019 had left him "down mentally and physically" and questioning his love for the sport.

'I was down mentally and physically' admits Rafa Nadal on winning 12th Roland Garros title
Nadal celebrates after winning his 12th title in Paris. Photo: AFP

The 33-year-old swept to an 18th Grand Slam crown with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Austria's Dominic Thiem in a repeat of the 2018 final.

Nadal is now just two behind Roger Federer's all-time record of 20 majors and three ahead of Novak Djokovic who was knocked out by Thiem in the semi-finals.

However, Nadal said that his troubled season leading up to the French Open had left him facing new fears about his ability to defend his title in Paris.

“I was not enjoying it too much, I was worried about my health. I was down mentally and physically after Indian Wells,” said Nadal.

“I was too negative. After Madrid and Barcelona, I was thinking about what I needed to do. I could stop for a while and recover or change my attitude and recover.”


An emotional Nadal collects his prize. Photo: AFP

After a loss in the Australian Open final to Djokovic where he won just eight games, a second round exit in Acapulco was followed by a withdrawal from the semi-finals in Indian Wells, when a knee injury meant that an eagerly-awaited clash with Federer was shelved.

His return in the clay court season saw semi-finals losses in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid before a much needed title triumph in Rome.

“This is a very satisfying victory. In 2018, I only played nine events and finished just seven of them,” he added.

“I had issues with my knee and surgery on my foot, so many issues in the last 18 months that have made the last few weeks very special.”

Nadal revealed that in Barcelona, he had locked himself away where he ended up questioning where his season was heading.

“Mentally, I lost a little bit of that energy, because I had too many issues in a row. It is tough when you receive one after another, and then sometimes you are groggy,” he explained.

“In Barcelona, I was able to stay alone for a couple of hours in the room and think about what's going on, what I need to do.

“One possibility was to stop for a while and recover my body. And the other was change drastically my attitude and my mentality to play the next couple of weeks.

“Thinking a lot, finally I think I was able to change and was able to fight back for every small improvement that I was able to make that happen.”

 

World number two Nadal took his Paris record to an astonishing 93 wins and just two losses having previously won the title in 2005-2008, 2010-2014, 2017 and 2018.

It also gave him an 82nd career title and 950th match win.

“All the things that I went through probably give me that extra passion when I am playing, because I know I will not be here forever.

“So I just try to be positive, to be intense, and to be passionate about what I am doing.”

Nike produced a compliation video of Nadal, beginning when he was just 16 years-old. 

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