Rafael Nadal on Friday set up an Australian Open final against his old rival Roger Federer after edging Grigor Dimitrov in an epic five-set semi-final.
The Spaniard dug deep to win his 13th consecutive Grand Slam semi-final in a marathon match that lasted for four hours and 56 minutes.
Nadal raced to the first set in 35 minutes as he repeatedly attacked the Dimitrov backhand.
Dimitrov then broke serve for the first time in the third game of the second set when Nadal was given a time violation.
The Spaniard saved four set points in a 10-minute game at 4-5 before the Bulgarian finally closed out the set.
In the ninth game of the final set, Nadal clawed back from 0-30 down to break Dimitrov’s serve with two tremendous chases to put away the winning volley to lead 5-4.
Grigor Dimitrov bravely saved two match points as Nadal held serve to clinch victory 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4.
Nadal sunk to his knees in relief and jubilation in front of a cheering Rod Laver Arena crowd.
Speaking after the match, Rafael Nadal expressed his joy for winning while praising his opponent’s effort.
”It is difficult to describe the emotions. I was tired. Grigor was unbelievable. It was a great match. I feel happy to be part of it. I enjoyed it a lot.”
“I work a lot during this month and a half and at home and, you know, I never dreamed to be back in a final of the Australian Open in the second tournament of the year after a lot of months without competing. But here I am now. I feel lucky. I feel very happy really.”
On the mouthwatering Australian Open final with Roger Federer, their ninth final, Nadal called it a ”privilege”.
”It is very very special I think for both of us to be in this final and have the chance to compete again after a couple of years.”
“We were supposed to play an exhibition game in October when he came to Mallorca to open my academy. He had his knee injury and I had my wrist so we could only hit with the juniors. I think both of us thought we would never ever be here for the final of the Open in Australia.”
Nadal and Federer will be the first two thirtysomethings men to play in a Grand Slam final since 2002 US Open when Pete Sampras, 31, beat Andre Agassi, 32. The Spaniard leads the Swiss 6-2 in their major finals.
Nadal will be hoping to win his second Australian Open title to 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.