Rafa whips Fed again

27 January 2012 - 02:30
By Talek Harris, Sapa-AFP
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland during their men's singles semifinal at the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday Picture: DANIEL MUNOZ/GALLO IMAGES
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland during their men's singles semifinal at the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday Picture: DANIEL MUNOZ/GALLO IMAGES

Spain's Rafael Nadal extended his mastery over Roger Federer yesterday when he came from a set down to win a gripping Australian Open semifinal.

In a rematch of the 2009 final, Federer opened like a train but he was gradually reeled in by the tenacious Nadal to suffer his fifth straight grand slam defeat to his great rival 6-7 (5) 6-2 7-6 (5) 6-4.

"For me it's a dream to be back in the final," said a smiling Nadal.

"It's a real honour to play against Roger; it was a fantastic match. It's fantastic to have one player in front of you who doesn't make mistakes, having a totally complete game."

Nadal will now face either defending champion Novak Djokovic or fourth seed Andy Murray, who play today, as he looks for his second Australian Open crown and his 11th grand slam title.

The 25-year-old strengthened his spellbinding hold on the otherwise masterful Swiss, who has won only two of their 10 grand slam meetings, both at Wimbledon, and none since 2007.

Three years ago, Federer wept openly when Nadal won their epic, five-set Melbourne final. And there was no revenge for the 16-time slam winner.

Federer produced flawless tennis at the start of the match but his game unravelled when put under pressure by Nadal and he finished with 63 unforced errors.

The Swiss broke immediately with a flashing backhand winner but he was broken back before edging the first-set tiebreak.

Nadal won the key break in the second set and levelled the match after a 10-minute break for Australia Day fireworks shot Federer's concentration to bits.

The Spaniard needed six set points to take a two-sets-to-one lead in the third-set tiebreak and he broke in game nine of the fourth before finally serving out the win.

Earlier, former champion Maria Sharapova and Belarus's Victoria Azarenka set up a fight for both the Australian Open title and the No1 ranking after winning nerve-wracking semifinals.

Russia's Sharapova gained sweet revenge for her Wimbledon final defeat to Petra Kvitova, after Azarenka survived a second-set collapse against defending champion Kim Clijsters to reach her first major title match.

Both semifinals went to three tense sets ,with Sharapova winning 6-2 3-6 6-4 and Azarenka beating Clijsters 6-4 1-6 6-3.

The Australian Open has heralded a shake-up in women's tennis with Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki set to drop from world No1 to four, and with Clijsters now following long-dominant Serena Williams out of the tournament.

Azarenka can now claim Belarus's first grand slam title in tomorrow's final, while resurgent Sharapova gets another shot at breaking a four-year major drought since her previous Melbourne win in 2008.

Third seed Azarenka, 22, wept on court after she upset four-times slam champion Clijsters to go one step better than her previous grand slam best of reaching the semi-finals at last year's Wimbledon.

Sharapova dominated the first set and Kvitova the second, with the pair evenly matched in the third until Kvitova faltered at 4-5 to lose her serve and send Sharapova through to the final.