Brilliant Rafael Nadal routs Roger Federer to reach Australian Open final
Spaniard extends his grand slam dominance over the Swiss, who looked out of sorts, as top seed displays precision to close in on 14th major title
Agencies in Melbourne
A ruthless Rafael Nadal crushed his great rival Roger Federer 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-3 yesterday in an awesome display of raw power and precision to reach his third Australian Open final.
On a breezy night at Rod Laver Arena, the 2009 champion notched his sixth straight win in grand slams over the Swiss, stunning his opponent with a masterclass of clean hitting to book a title-decider with eighth seed Stanislas Wawrinka.
Dominating Federer in the first-set tiebreak, the Spaniard broke twice to win the second, and took 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 when the shell-shocked Swiss shanked a forehand long.
Nadal punched his left fist into the night sky and roared in triumph while a demoralised Federer gave a cursory wave before trudging to the exit.
"Tonight, I played my best match of the tournament, so I'm very happy for that," Nadal, who missed last year's tournament through illness, said courtside.
"After missing last year, for me it's really emotional to be back on this court, in Rod Laver.
"I never thought about having 14 [slams]. The only thing I can swear is that I'm going to try my best," the 13-times grand slam champion said.
Federer said: "I tried a few things ... then again, Rafa does a good job of neutralising you. So I guess at times I couldn't quite do what I wanted to do, but that's because of Rafa."
Nadal is now second on the list of players reaching grand slam finals, joining Ivan Lendl on 19. Federer leads the list with 24.
He has not beaten Nadal in a grand slam match since 2007, but after holding off Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in the quarter-finals, and with new coach Stefan Edberg helping fine tune his game, Federer was more confident.
The lopsided result will refuel the debate as to the greatest player of all time, with Nadal extending his head-to-head dominance over Federer to 23-10.
Nadal was impenetrable on serve and demanded Federer meet him in a tiebreak where the Swiss promptly stumbled.
Throwing his opponent from side to side, the Spaniard played it completely on his terms, roaring to a 5-1 lead and closing the set out when Federer sent an increasingly shaky backhand sailing past the baseline.
Frustrated by Nadal's stifling consistency, Federer was further agitated after the Spaniard left the court between sets and then had treatment on his blistered hand at the first change of ends.
Federer was forced to defend three break points at 2-1 and survived only by an inch shown up on the Hawk Eye technology after a successful challenge on a line call.
An outrageous cross-court passing shot steered from a seemingly impossible angle gave Nadal another look at Federer's serve at 3-2 and he smacked an inside-out forehand to leave Federer flat-footed, broken and in deep trouble.
Serving for the set, Nadal wobbled to 0-30, but closed it out with four straight points.
An unkind net cord put Federer on the rack at 15-40 again on serve, and he was unable to breach it with another backhand to slump to an early break in the third game.
Against all reason, Nadal shanked a forehand to give up two break points and then fired another just past the baseline to allow Federer to break back.
Marginally off all night, Federer flirted with the net cord again and was broken to 4-3.
Smelling blood, Nadal closed with a dizzying array of winners.
Reuters, Associated Press