Melbourne - World number one Rafael Nadal fought off a big challenge from rising
Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov to reach the semi-finals of the
Australian Open on Wednesday.
Nadal got home 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6
(9/7), 6-2 in three hours 37 minutes and now will play either Andy
Murray or Roger Federer for a place in Sunday's final.
passages of the quarter-final on Rod Laver Arena, Nadal was struggling
to put away the 22nd-seeded Dimitrov, and he needed a bit of luck at
crucial stages to go through.
"I was so lucky, after saving set
points in the third set," he said. "He just missed an easy forehand...
Today was for me, so I'm so happy."
Nadal was playing after
three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic was upset by Stanislas
Wawrinka late on Tuesday, and there were times when he looked like
becoming another casualty.
Nadal's serve, troubled by a large
blister on his left hand, was shaky and he gave up seven double-faults,
including two of them on break points.
But the 2009 Australian
Open champion won through to his fourth semi-final in Melbourne and his
22nd in Grand Slams, while extending his winning streak to 10 matches.
22, who was bidding to become only the second Bulgarian to reach a
Grand Slam semifinal, showed what an emerging talent he is to have Nadal
under pressure for long periods.
Nadal's opening serve was broken
and Dimitrov controlled the remainder of the set as the 13-time Grand
Slam champion dropped his first set of the tournament.
to test the legs of the young Bulgarian with some longer, physical
rallies in the second set, but after breaking Dimitrov's serve he handed
back the break with three double-faults in the third game.
The set went to a tiebreaker which Nadal comfortably won with an exquisite backhand flick across court to level the match.
just when the top seed looked to be getting on top, after breaking the
Bulgarian's serve in the fifth game, Nadal's shaky serve again cost him
with a double-fault on break point.
Nadal fought off set point as
the third set went into another tiebreaker and he was fortunate to
survive after Dimitrov just missed a forehand winner to the corner on
his first of two set points.
Nadal quickly seized the advantage to get to set point, and Dimitrov lost the set with an overhit forehand off a net cord.
was broken in the second game of the final set, after six deuces, on a
Nadal backhand pass and the Spaniard went on to claim victory on his
fourth match point.