Melbourne - Rafael Nadal set up an Australian Open final against his great rival
Roger Federer after edging Grigor Dimitrov in a classic five-set
semi-final which stretched for nearly five hours on Friday.
14-time Grand Slam champion pulled off one of his toughest victories in
denying Bulgaria's Dimitrov, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 in four
hours and 56 minutes in front of a rocking Rod Laver Arena crowd.
showed his incredible fighting qualities to claw back from behind in
the ninth game of the final set and break Dimitrov's serve, making two
tremendous chases to put away the winning volley.
In scenes of
high tension, Dimitrov bravely saved two match points as Nadal served
for the match before the gutsy Spaniard finally clinched victory,
sinking to his knees in relief and jubilation.
"It's special to
play with Roger again in a final of a Grand Slam. I cannot lie, it's
great," said Nadal, after setting up his ninth major final against his
"It's exciting for me and for both of us that we are
still there and we still fighting for important events. So that's
important for us, I think.
He added: "I hope to be ready to compete well again. I need to go back to the hotel, to rest well, and to recover from now."
who downed Federer in the 2009 final, is now into his fourth Australian
Open decider and his 21st Grand Slam title match. He leads Federer
leads 6-2 in their major finals.
Neither player had been expected
to reach the final but after the early exits of top seeds Andy Murray
and Novak Djokovic, they have seized their opportunity with both hands.
30, has been out of the Grand Slam limelight since his last title
success at Roland Garros in 2014, as injuries sidetracked his glorious
On Sunday, he can win his second Australian Open title
and become the first man in the Open era - and only the third man in
history - to win each of the four Grand Slam titles twice.
who also went five sets against Stan Wawrinka in Thursday's first
semi-final, would have been watching with relish as Nadal was taken the
distance in a draining battle.
Nadal and Dimitrov played each
other to a standstill in Friday's epic, with two tiebreakers going
either way in a match that ran to nearly 1:00 am on Saturday.
is no stranger to marathon matches at the Australian Open, including his
record, five-hour, 53-minute struggle against Djokovic in the 2012
Nadal broke in the fourth game and cruised to the opening
set, but he was given a time violation warning for slow serving and was
broken for the first time in game four of the second set.
gave back the break with a double fault in the seventh game, before
Nadal fought off four set points in a titanic 10 minute-plus game to
stay in the set.
But the Spaniard came under attack in his next
service game and Dimitrov levelled the match when Nadal's forehand
sailed over the baseline, ending a 63-minute set.
Dimitrov early in the third but Dimitrov broke back and it went to a
tiebreaker, when the Bulgarian paid for a poor, netted forehand on set
point to go 2-1 down on sets.
There were no break points in the
fourth set and Dimitrov played a masterful tiebreaker to take it to a
fifth set as excitement grew in the stadium.
Both players fought
off break points but Nadal got the winning break in the ninth game with
two lung-busting chases to the net, and then clinched it in the