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Fed-Nadal in unfamiliar territory

2012-01-25 19:00

Melbourne - One of the great rivalries of modern tennis will be played out in the unfamiliar surroundings of the semi-finals at the Australian Open on Thursday.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have won 26 Grand Slam titles between them, are used to meeting in the finals of the four majors where Nadal holds a 6-2 record over his Swiss rival. Their only Grand Slam semi-final showdown was at the 2005 French Open which Nadal won.

"We have been on opposite sides of the draw many times," Federer said. "I didn't even play (Andy) Murray last year because we were ranked I guess three and four, so we always ran into Novak (Djokovic) or I basically always ran into Novak.

"I guess it's a nice changeup... but I think it's good for tennis that it changes up a bit."

The pair last met at the Australian Open in 2009 when Nadal won an epic five-set battle that reduced Federer to tears on Rod Laver Arena and the Spaniard said the match would be special no matter what ranking each man held in the world.

"We talk about a player who won 16 Grand Slams and I have won 10 and we played a lot of matches between each other, all (were) very important for our careers," Nadal said.

"Every match is different, and I know I will be on court playing against probably the best (player) of history.

"So obviously my only chance to win is play aggressive, play very well, and to play to a limit. That's what I gonna try."

Both of the women's semi-finals will also be played on Thursday with fourth seed Maria Sharapova looking to avenge her Wimbledon final defeat to second seed Petra Kvitova. The Russian was full of praise for her young Czech opponent.

"It will certainly be tough. I've lost to her the last couple of times, obviously the big one in Wimbledon where she played really well," Sharapova said.

"I think she's the one to beat right now, playing the best tennis in her career.

"Coming off of so many wins last year, I'm looking forward to the matchup. I don't like losing so many times in a row. So I'll certainly be going out there and trying to play my best."

Champion Kim Clijsters, who has said 2012 will be her last year on tour, will be looking to advance to her ninth Grand Slam final when she meets third seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

"Tough player, tough match. She's playing extremely well, playing with a lot of confidence," Clijsters said.

"She takes a lot more initiative, hits a lot down the middle of the court, deep, hard.

"She's improved a lot on her fitness and her movement, which was definitely a weakness in the past... so she's becoming a more and more complete player."

Reuters