Nadal into final after epic battle
Originally published on: 26/02/10 12:16
The top seed took a record five hours and 14 minutes – the longest men’s match in Australian Open history – to get past fellow Spaniard and left-hander Fernando Verdasco 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 in an enthralling match on Rod Laver Arena.
Federer should be thanking Verdasco for making Nadal work so hard for his win in a match that had everything – blistering ground strokes, delicate drop shots, smashes, some truly bullet-like serving, and even the odd volley.
The 14th seed had lost all six previous meetings against his Davis Cup team-mate, taking only one set off the 22-year-old Majorcan in that time.
But he has found a new level to his game, something Nadal was aware of before entering Rod Laver Arena for the first all-Spanish semi-final in Australian Open history.
Verdasco’s serve is one of his key weapons and he used it to good effect, just as he had against Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Several times he came up with aces when he needed to dig himself out of a hole, while at other times, Nadal, who had not dropped a set on his way to the last four, was forced onto the defensive despite getting the serve back over the net.
Nadal produced some magic, too, curling in a couple of wonderful shots that looked for all the world as though they were going out.
Verdasco, who hit 93 winners in the match, showed he could spin too, sealing the ninth game of the fourth set with a ball Shane Warne would have been pleased to deliver such was the turn off the line.
In the end, though, it came down to the 10th game of the fifth set where two double faults – the last on match point – handed Nadal the win.