Fri | Oct 20, 2017

Nadal sets up big final vs Federer

Published:Saturday | January 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov in the semi-finals of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia yesterday.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):

Rafael Nadal took five sets and almost five hours to fend off 'Baby Fed' and revive a classic Grand Slam final against the one-and-only Roger Federer (3:30 a.m. Jamaica time Sunday.

Nadal's 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 win over Grigor Dimitrov in a gruelling 4-hour, 56-minute semi-final match sets up a championship weekend at the Australian Open like no other, with every singles finalist in their 30s.

The all-Williams women's final this morning features the record-chasing Serena against Venus the first decider between the sisters at a major since 2009. The Roger-Rafa final will be their first meeting in an Australian Open title match since Nadal won in 2009.

The unexpected pairings have already generated hype that transcends the sport.

"I feel that this rivalry is talked about outside the tennis world, and that is good for our sport," Nadal said of his ninth Grand Slam final against the 17-time major champion.

The 35-year-old Federer and the Williams sisters Serena is 35, a year younger than Venus had already clinched their finals spots on Throwback Thursday.

Nadal completed the 30-plus quartet in a match that started in local prime time Friday and finished at 12:45 a.m. Dimitrov, who had only beaten Nadal once in eight previous matches and was in a Grand Slam semi-final for only the second time, played the match of his life.

BOOMING BACKHAND

He had two break point chances in the eighth game of the fifth set, but Nadal's experience of winning 14 major titles kicked in. He held, then converted his first break point of the set in the next game with a booming backhand winner down the line.

After clinching the win on his third match point, the 30-year-old Nadal dropped to his knees, then onto his stomach and lay face down for several seconds before getting up and embracing Dimitrov at the net.

Nadal held up his arms triumphantly, then pointed toward the 25-year-old Bulgarian, gesturing to the cheering crowd just as a conductor would to acknowledge his orchestra.