A ruthless Rafa Nadal crushed his great rival Roger Federer 7-6(4) 6-3 6-3 on Friday to reach his third Australian Open final, in which he will play Stanislas Wawrinka.
On a breezy night at Rod Laver Arena, the 2009 champion extended his winning streak in Grand Slams to six over the Swiss master in an ominous display of precision and raw power.
Dominating Federer in the first set tiebreak, Nadal broke twice to charge through the second, and captured the decisive break in the third at 3-3 when his opponent blasted into the net-cord and the deflection sailed long.
Hitting winners from all corners, Nadal raised two match-points as Federer served to stay in the match and sealed it on the second after two hours and 24 minutes when the shell-shocked Swiss shanked a forehand long.
THIRD SET - NADAL 6 FEDERER 3
Rafael Nadal yet again proved to be difficult for Roger Federer as the Spaniard set a straight set 7-6 6-3 6-3 to enter the final of the Australian Open.
In the biggest clash of the tournament, Nadal was at his supreme best in the semifinals despite suffering from blisters on his hand.
Federer gave him a tough time in the first set with none of them able to break the serves before Nadal won in the tie breaker.
But then on Nadal was unstoppable as he sealed remaining two sets with an identical 6-3 score.
BREAK! Great tennis at Rod Laver Arena. Federer trying all his best to stay in the game but Nadal is too good for him. Breaks him again to win the game, set and match. Federer 3 Nadal 6
Federer is a real champion. Some unbelievable shots but Nadal still very much in control as he gets the game to go just one game away to enter the final. Federer 3 Nadal 5
BREAK! Too many unforced errors from Federer. That's the pressure Nadal always puts on him. Nadal earns a breakpoint and wins it too to take the lead again. Federer 3 Nadal 4
Nadal wins the game not dropping a point. Federer looks to have found his rhythm. A strong contest from here? Federer 3 Nadal 3
Nadal responds in style. He dominates to take two breakpoints. Federer manages to save both with two good serves to make it deuce. Another two points and Federer holds his serve. Federer 3 Nadal 2
BREAK! Federer is fighting back and gets his first breakpoint in the match. He had two of them. Loses the first one before pulling off in the second to level scores. Federer 2 Nadal 2
BREAK! It looks like Federer is unable to counter Nadal's fiery forehand shots. Nadal goes 15-30 up and then earns two break points before sealing it immediately. Federer 1 Nadal 2
Nadal has been covering the court really well. Takes the game easily with Federer continuing to commit errors. Federer 1 Nadal 1
Dominating start to third set as Federer wins it not dropping a point. Federer 1 Nadal 0
Nadal has all the advantage here, but nothing is over untill it's over. Federer will look for the final push here.
SECOND SET - NADAL 6 FEDERER 3
Federer takes a 0-30 advantage before a stunning rally gives Nadal his first point. He takes it from there to win the game and the second set. Nadal 6 Federer 3
Federer is a treat to watch when he is in full swing. He showed that in this game and needs some of them frequently. Wins the game without losing a point. Nadal 5 Federer 3
Nadal going strong. Gets his game easily as he looks all set to seal the second set. Nadal 5 Federer 2.
BREAK! Pressure seems to be taking on Federer. But Nadal is playing stunning tennis to get two break points. Misses one timidly but an amazing rally finally gives the Spaniard the much deserved break. Nadal 4 Federer 2
Nadal wins his game without much of a fuss. Nadal 3 Federer 2
Nadal had a great chance leading 0-30 before Federer pulled it back to go level. Nadal gets the crucial point to get a break point but a fine serve from Federer makes it deuce. After some battle Federer just manages to take the game. Nadal 2 Federer 2
Some great serves and powerful shots from Nadal. Wins his game without losing a point. Nadal 2 Federer 1
Is the blisters causing trouble for Nadal? We have to wait and watch as the game progresses. But Nadal not getting his forehand as they seem to be flying all over the place. Federer seals the game easily. Nadal 1 Federer 1
Nadal gets treated for his blisters. Medical time out.
Federer responds strongly as its 30-all but Nadal takes the next crucial points to get the game. But Federer did stretch him early in the second set. Nadal 1 Federer 0
Federer is not coming as frequently to the net as he used to in his previous matches. Probably he might consider doing that in this set.
FIRST SET - NADAL 7 FEDERER 6
Nadal wins the first set. A great fightback from Federer. Nadal was leading 5-1 before Federer fought back to make it 5-4. But Nadal kept his both serves to take home the first set 7-6.
A 33-shot rally for the first point won by Nadal gives him the momentum to wrap the game without much fuss but not before Federer managed pull a couple of points. It's tie-breaker. Federer 6 Nadal 6
That was pretty easy game for Federer. Lot of errors from Nadal. Federer gets it with a beautiful ace. Federer 6 Nadal 5
Leading 30-0 and then Federer catching up to make it 30-all Nadal seems to be inviting trouble. But some good forehand shots and Nadal seals the crucial game. Federer 5 Nadal 5
A rare double fault from Federer before Nadal earns his way to a break point. But Federer sorts it at the right time to win three successive points to pack off the game. Federer 5 Nadal 4
Nadal serves fine to take the game but not before Federer gave him some anxious moments. Interesting rallies to top it up. Federer 4 Nadal 4
Nadal gets two break points with some fine winners. Federer's move to come in to the net does not help him at all but still manages to save both of them before sealing the game after a stiff challenge. Federer 4 Nadal 3
Some interesting rallies and powerful serves gives Nadal an easy win. Four straight points to wrap the game. Federer 3 Nadal 3
Federer at his majestic best. Takes the game without dropping a point. It looks all easy for Federer. Federer 3 Nadal 2
Federer is getting close to the net and that's proving to be an advantage. Nadal was down 0-30 and he counters the problem early before the game is decided in the first Advantage point. Federer 2 Nadal 2
Federer is being given a tough time with Rafa matching him to go 30-all but the Swiss still holds it firm to win the game. Federer 2 Nadal 1
Nadal responds with similar fashion. Wins his game without dropping a point. Federer 1 Nadal 1
Federer begins with a bang as he keeps his serve. Loses just a point to win the first game comfortably. He looks very relaxed. Federer 1 Nadal 0
Federer prepares to serve as there are huge cheers from the stands.
The players begin their warm-up.
So here we are just minutes away from the most awaited match of the Australian Open. Rafa has blisters on his hand but that should not stop him from putting and other top fight as ever. Roger is looking for a strong start to dominate early on.
Rafa Nadal has suffered a number of career-threatening injuries in the past yet a bad blister on the Spaniard's hand could be all Roger Federer needs to gain a vital advantage in their Australian Open semifinal on Friday.
The 27-year-old Nadal has been forced to play the season opening Grand Slam with strapping across his left hand due to the sore, which is painful enough to compromise his aggressive style of play.
Holding the racket is not a problem and he remains able to hit his powerful topspin forehand but the world number one has found it increasingly difficult to control his serve as the tournament has progressed.
"Serving with this injury leads to problems with the rest of my game," he said.
"When you lose confidence with one shot, an important shot, then you are not able to feel comfortable about the rest of your shots.
"I will try to improve that. If not, I won't have a chance of being in the final."
That Nadal has identified such an innocuous injury, given his creaky knees have been bothering his scampering play for years, as a potential key to winning his semifinal shows how aware he is that Federer may be playing as well as ever.
The 32-year-old Swiss had a terrible 2013, winning just one tournament and falling to sixth in the rankings.
He entered the Australian Open with his lowest seeding at a the season opening grand slam since 2002, when he was ranked 13th in the world.
Last year's performances allowed pundits to suggest the Swiss's time had come.
He had reached only one Grand Slam semifinal since claiming a 17th Major title by beating Andy Murray at Wimbledon in 2012 and was losing more games to players outside the 'Big Four' than he had previously.
In the past 10 days at Melbourne Park, however, Federer has appeared to be close to his free flowing best, none more so in his fourth round victory over France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and then in Wednesday's quarter-final against Murray.
"It's an amazing result for me to be in the semis again. This one feels different because of the tougher times I've had in slams, Wimbledon, at the US Open," the four time champion at Melbourne Park said.
"I definitely sensed that... I am back physically.
"I'm explosive out there. I can get to balls. I'm not afraid to go for balls.
"Of course, last year at times I couldn't do it, but the important thing is that I can do it now."
Despite his blister, Nadal will enter the semifinal as the favourite having racked up an impressive 22-10 career record against Federer.
The Spaniard has won the last four times the pair have met and Nadal also triumphed in their Melbourne Park semifinal two years ago.
"He's been tough to play against, no doubt. I'm happy I get a chance to play him in a slam again. I don't remember the last time we played," Federer said.
"The head-to-head record is in his favour. I'm looking forward to speaking to (coach) Stefan (Edberg), because when we spoke together, when he came to Dubai and we spoke about the game, we clearly spoke about playing Rafa, as well.
"He thought he had some good ideas, so I'm looking forward to what he has to say."
Federer, who has been batting back retirement questions since 2009, said he was not going to be thinking too far ahead of his match against Nadal and felt that his age was tacitly lowering expectations upon him.
"Things don't get easier. But at the same time they might become more enjoyable (and)... maybe I can play with less pressure," he said.
"I still love competition. Still feel maybe there's something big around the corner.
"For me, it's (been) a dream run and I hope I can keep it up against Rafa."
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