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Nadal beats Berdych to set Federer semi

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Originally published on: 24/01/12 16:33

Rafael Nadal set a spicy semi-final with Roger Federer after prevailing in a high quality battle with Tomas Berdych at the Australian Open.

The Spaniard overcame a slow start, which he later attributed to nerves, to hit top gear before rounding out a fine 6-7(5) 7-6(6) 6-4 6-3 victory over the tiring Czech in four hours and 16 minutes.

“I think the level of the third and fourth sets for me was very, very high, top level for myself playing on these courts,” said the 2009 champion. “Very happy about how I finished the match.”

Berdych snuck the first set after capitalising on a controversial line call that Nadal had challenged too late (it was later confirmed the ball was out beyond the baseline). The Czech earned a fifth chance to close out the set at 6-5 and this time duly did so, firing an ace to secure the early advantage.

“It is very difficult against a player like him,” said Nadal later, having struggled to settle into a rhythm to counter the Czech’s hard and flat play.

“I felt that I started the match too nervous,” he added. “I wasn’t able to hit the ball long. My movements weren’t strong enough, fast enough.”

The tide turned in a second set that could, and perhaps should, have gone Berdych’s way. With set point and a chance to go up two to love, Berdych skewed a backhand volley wide into the tramlines on the tie-break. With the 6’5” Czech unable to get the miss out of his mind, Rafa fought back to bring proceedings level, before turning on the style in the remaining two sets as Berdych eventually tired.

“It was a really good match but it was only good, which means that is not enough [to beat] Rafa,” lamented Berdych.

The world No.2, meanwhile, can look forward to a 27th clash with Roger Federer, who he has not faced ahead of the final in a Grand Slam since the 2005 French Open.

While they wont contest the showpiece match, Nadal still anticipates a quality encounter.

“He’s doing well and he’s playing fantastic and he had a fantastic end of the season last year,” said Nadal of the Swiss. “He’s coming with confidence. It will be a very, very difficult match for me and I will try.”

Nadal even entertained the thought of defeat to the in-form Swiss, an eventuality that he would not consider to be disastrous given that a knee problem threatened to rule him out of his very first match in Melbourne.

“Even if I lose, I come back home with very positive feeling about how I played, and for sure the result is good,” reasoned Nadal. “For me, semi-finals after two years with troubles, injuries – I must be happy for that.”

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