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Sensational Nadal has too much for Federer

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Originally published on: 26/01/12 13:03

A gripping, not-to be missed battle between two of the most powerful calling cards for tennis the sport has ever seen didn’t disappoint.

And yet, it did.

The fact that one man had to lose a battle so intense, so agonisingly nerve-racking, and yet so wonderfully entertaining was a gut-wrenching shame.

That man was Roger Federer, and the 30-year-old Swiss was denied the chance to bid for his 17th Grand Slam title in Melbourne by a ferociously solid performance from Rafael Nadal as the Spaniard prevailed 6-7 6-2 7-6 6-4 to earn his second appearance in the Australian Open final.

“For me, it’s a dream to be back here in the final,” said Nadal, who applauded Federer off the court in a mark of respect characteristic of the modest Mallorcan.

Federer was sublime at times, the rallies were unfathomable, but the 2009 champion proved to be an impenetrable force in defence as Federer succumbed to a few too many unlikely errors on the forehand and serve, striking 63 by the match’s end, to just 34 from Nadal.

The Swiss pinched the first set on a tiebreak but allowed Nadal back in to proceedings in the second as the Spaniard broke thrice to level the score. Come the third set, Federer looked to be wrestling the momentum back.

“At the beginning of the third I had a couple of mistakes and Roger played better and better,” said Nadal, who ultimately recovered two breaks of serve to force a tiebreak.

The 25-year-old capitalised on Federer’s misfiring first serve and the Swiss first shanked a backhand wide and into the tramlines to hand the world No.2 a 4-1 advantage, before his groundstrokes deserted him again as he found the net with a forehand to fall 1-6 behind.

Suddenly, Federer put the pressure back on, doubling his points tally with a majestic backhand before bravely harrying the net to win three straight points and get back to 5-6. Asked on court by Jim Courier what he was thinking at that moment, Nadal replied: “Please win the point.” He did just that, pushing the Swiss too deep to return his lunging forehand and clinch the crucially-important third set in 67 minutes.

Federer had several opportunities to break for the chance to serve out a thrilling fourth set, but Nadal produced a series of incredible gets from far beyond the baseline to break, before seeing out Federer’s offensive play and falling to his knees in triumph.

His rivalry with the Swiss continues to fascinate, just as Nadal’s respect for the Swiss continues to soar, despite suggestions of a rift following the Mallorcan’s comments to the press ahead of this year’s tournament.

“It‘s fantastic to have one player in front of you with a totally complete game,” said Nadal of the world No.3. “I always try to keep learning with one player in front of me.”

Either Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray stands in the way of Nadal and his 11th Grand Slam title. After losing all of his last six finals to the Serb, Nadal was self-deprecating in his advice to the Scot as he bids for his third straight final in Melbourne.

“My advice to Andy is he has to play a little more aggressive than usual,” he said, before adding with a laugh: “But my advice doesn’t matter because I lost the last six finals against him!”

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