Australian Open

Nadal Slam revival faces 'Baby Fed' threat

2017-01-26 14:17
Rafael Nadal (Getty)

Melbourne - Rafael Nadal's stirring Grand Slam revival faces a threat from the in-form Grigor Dimitrov as he attempts to reach his first major final in two-and-a-half years at the Australian Open.

The 30-year-old Spaniard has been out of the Grand Slam limelight since his last title success at Roland Garros in 2014, as injuries side-tracked his glorious career.

But victory over Bulgaria's 15th seed Dimitrov, once dubbed 'Baby Fed', in Friday's second men's semi-final will put Nadal one win away from a 15th major title.

However, Dimitrov is enjoying some of the form of his life coming into what will be his first major semi-final since Wimbledon in 2014.

Dimitrov, five years younger than Nadal, was once hailed as a future champion and nicknamed 'Baby Fed' owing to his Roger Federer-style court movement and single-handed backhand.

After his upset of defending champion Andy Murray at Wimbledon in 2014 he lost to Novak Djokovic in the semis, reaching number eight in the rankings. But after that, his career failed to take off.

Now under Murray's former coach Daniel Vallverdu, Dimitrov is unbeaten in 2017, winning his fifth career title in Brisbane and now on a run of 10 matches without defeat.

While Federer has enthralled the tennis world with his comeback from an injury-blighted 2016, so too has Nadal's charge through the bottom half of the draw.

He has looked like the Nadal of old as he tossed aside Alexander Zverev, Gael Monfils and Milos Raonic to be just one step away from his fourth Australian final.

Nadal has added Carlos Moya to his coaching team and since his first-round loss to Viktor Troicki in Shanghai in October he has worked hard to get his game into shape.

"It's good news, especially winning against difficult players: Monfils in quarter-finals, Zverev round of 16, and Raonic," Nadal said.

"All of them are top players. So that's very important for me because that means that I am competitive and playing well. I worked hard to try to make that happen."

Nadal is now dialled in for his next challenge presented by the increasingly impressive Dimitrov. The winner will play Federer or Stan Wawrinka in Sunday's final.

"He's a player that has an unbelievable talent, unbelievable potential. He's started the season playing unbelievable," Nadal said of Dimitrov.

"It's going to be a very tough match for me. I hope for him, too. I have to play my best because he's playing with high confidence."

The 2009 winner is 7-1 in his matches with Dimitrov, including a four-set quarter-final win at the Australian Open three years ago.

Another salient statistic is that Nadal is 66-8 against players with one-handed backhands at Slams.

Dimitrov is confident of his chances and in the first week of this season he accounted for three top-10 opponents - Dominic Thiem, Raonic and Kei Nishikori - on the way to winning the lead-up Brisbane International tournament.

The last time the Bulgarian won 10 straight matches was back in 2014, when he took the title at Queen's and reached the last four at Wimbledon.

"I feel like I have all the tools to go further and my job isn't over yet," he said. "I'm looking forward to my match. I think I'm prepared.

"I think I'm ready to go the distance. I don't shy away from that. I'm confident enough to say that as I feel good physically, and overall on the court."

Read more on:    australian open  |  rafael nadal  |  tennis
NEXT ON SPORT24X

What To Read Next

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Vote

Which is your favourite Grand Slam of the year?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

The 2017/18 PSL season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.