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Supreme Nadal too good for Federer

ESPN staff
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Rafael Nadal proved too strong for a resurgent Roger Federer © Getty Images
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Rafael Nadal proved too strong for Roger Federer as he eased to a straight sets victory in their Australian Open semi-final, and will now meet Stanislas Wawrinka in Sunday's final.

The atmosphere on Rod Laver Arena was electric from the off, but Nadal always appeared to have the upper hand as soon as he won a first-set tie-break, and he completed his 7-6(4) 6-3 6-3 victory in two hours and 24 minutes.

Even a troublesome blister could not halt Nadal © AP
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Neither man could force a break in a nonetheless pulsating first set of quality tennis, but the tie-break belonged to Nadal. He raced to a 5-1 advantage, only to see Federer fight back to 5-4, but then pulled away again to seal the set when a Federer forehand sailed long.

At the first change of ends in the second set, Nadal called for a medical timeout to receive attention on the troublesome blister on his racquet hand. The delay - which came after Nadal had also skipped off for a toilet break at the end of the first set - appeared to irritate Federer, who repeatedly chirped his displeasure at umpire Jake Garner.

The standard of tennis did not let up, although Nadal continued to be the enforcer-in-chief. He finally broke Federer with his eighth break point of the match to go 4-2 ahead in the second set before winning it 6-3.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Nadal drove home his advantage early in the third set with a break in the third game, a tame volley into the net by Federer epitomising the dip in the Swiss's own form. However, he fought back in the next game to set up his first break points of the match and when Nadal's forehand flew fractionally long, the set was back on serve.

Immediately, Nadal set up two break points but two almighty serves from Federer staved off that threat and held to move 3-2 up in the set. There was no let up on Federer's service games, though, and Nadal broke again to lead 4-3 when Federer's shot clipped the netcord and travelled too far.

At 5-3 down in the third set, Federer was serving to stay in the match, and a punishing forehand return by Nadal again dialled up the pressure. Deuce turned into match point, twice, and Federer went long and wide with a difficult forehand to complete Nadal's victory.

He now faces another Swiss in Wawrinka in the final, and has an untouchable record against him - he has not even dropped so much as a set in 12 meetings between the pair.

"First of all playing with Roger is a special feeling," Nadal told Jim Courier after the match. "He's probably the opponent when I go on court I get emotional feelings. We've played a lot of times for important matches. He's a great champion and it's a great honour to be in the same era like him.

"In the first set was tough. It's true I had a few break points before the tie-break and I think we played really tough rallies at the end of the first set and I think I resisted well. He was taking the ball early, it was a difficult thing, I tried to resist. Tonight I played the best match of the tournament so I'm very happy for that."

After removing his bandages during the second set, Nadal's blister appeared to resemble the eye of Jupiter's storm. However, he was quick to quash any talk of it affecting his game.

"Too much talk about the blister," Nadal said. "The blister is OK. The problem is the position of the blister as it's difficult to cover. We try to make bandage shorter so I'm very happy."

He now faces a tough ask against the in-form Wawrinka, but the prize for Nadal is not only the possibility of a second Melbourne crown but also the chance of becoming only the third player to win all four grand slams more than once - only Laver and Roy Emerson have achieved such a feat.

Nadal can also equal Pete Sampras' total of 14 slam titles, but he is determined not to underestimate Wawrinka despite what's at stake.

"I have a tough opponent in front [of me]. Wawrinka is playing amazing, he should come to this final with big confidence," Nadal said.

"I never thought about having 13 Grand Slams so I never thought about having 14. The one thing I can swear is that I'm going to try my best. I need to keep playing great. His serve is huge, and he's hitting the ball really hard. I need to play aggressive and play the same way I played tonight."

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