NEWS

Rafael Nadal sees off Dimitrov to set up dream final

January 27, 2017

The men's Australian Open final will be a dream encounter between veteran legends Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, after Nadal came through an epic semi-final against Grigor Dimitrov.

It means 17-time Grand Slam winner Federer will be seeking to extend his own record number of major titles at the age of 35, while 14-time winner Nadal will be playing in his first Grand Slam final for two years. Many judges thought that in a period of dominance by Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, neither of the pair would add to their huge hauls of Grand Slam titles. Now one of them will.

For Nadal, it is a chance to go one clear of the number of titles won by Pete Sampras and in doing so become the first man ever to win all four Grand Slams more than once.

Fans booking corporate hospitality for The Championships, Wimbledon may be even more excited about this year's championship. With Federer and Nadal having recovered so well from knee and wrist injuries respectively, Murray looking to defend his title, Djokovic trying to regain it and Wawrinka aiming for his own clean sweep of the four Grand Slams, this year could be the most riveting of all.

Dimitrov will also be closely watched after an outstanding tournament in which he took Nadal the whole distance in their semi-final. Nadal survived break points in the very first game as he took the first set 6-3, but Dimitrov levelled by securing the second 7-5. A nervy tie-break settled the third in favour of the Spaniard as both players suffered nerves, but another tie break went the way of the Bulgarian to take the match to a decider.

As the Melbourne crowd revelled in the action way into the small hours, Nadal finally took the fifth 6-4, but was taken to deuce in the final game.

Dimitrov's performance suggests the 25-year-old, once christened 'Baby Federer', may yet win a Grand Slam, but for now all eyes will be on the exciting final line-up.

The last time Federer met Nadal in a Grand Slam final was at Roland Garros in 2011, while the combination of these two and the Williams sisters in the women's final has only happened once before - nine years ago at Wimbledon. With the courts also playing noticeably faster, it is as if the sport has gone into a sudden time-warp, and for the first time in the open era all four singles finalists are aged over 30.

While Nadal is seeking a second Australian Open to follow his victory over Federer in 2009, Federer is chasing a fifth, following his wins in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010. Nadal's victory came against Federer in an epic five-set encounter that left the Swiss legend in tears afterwards with the emotion of it all.

In the women's final, defending champion Serena Williams is chasing a seventh Australian Open, while Venus is seeking her first, having been the losing finalist in 2003.

Thus two of the greatest rivalries of modern tennis have been revived as the clock has been turned back. Wimbledon 2017 may see more of the same.

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