Australian Open 2014: Floored Roger Federer complains at Rafael Nadal's grunting after losing semi-final
The Swiss was beaten in straight sets in his semi-final meeting with Nadal
Their rivalry is into its 11th year but this was a reminder that Rafael Nadal well and truly has Roger Federer’s number. The former world No 1’s resurgence at the Australian Open, where he has relished his return to fitness and been inspired by the addition of Stefan Edberg to his coaching team, had given hope that he might even find a way past his greatest rival, but Nadal won their semi-final here in a fashion that only emphasised the hold he has over the 32-year-old Swiss.
Federer, who was disappointed at his failure to make inroads into Nadal’s service games, said the Spaniard had deserved his 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory but there was, nevertheless, an edge to the match after Federer complained to the umpire about his opponent’s grunting. He also said umpires had generally been too lenient with Nadal over the time he takes between points. “I’ve played him 33 or 34 times and he’s had just two penalty points over the course of the rivalry,” he said.
He added: “I don’t want to go in the office and complain all the time. I never do. I just hope [the umpires] do their job correctly. If they don’t, what are you going to do? Sit and watch? Sometimes you’ve just got to say things. I didn’t lose the match because of that. It didn’t bother me. I just felt I had to mention something.”
Nadal responded: “When I am hitting the ball during the point, the last thing that I am thinking is trying to bother the opponent. The only thing that I am focusing on is trying to hit the ball well. That’s it. I am sorry if I bothered somebody, but I never did in the past. Nobody in my career has ever told me that I am bothering my opponent.”
Nadal, who earned a place in Sunday’s final against Stanislas Wawrinka, has now beaten Federer 23 times in their 33 meetings, including the last five in a row and their last six at Grand Slam level. In their 11 meetings at Grand Slam tournaments, Federer’s only victories have been in the Wimbledon finals of 2006 and 2007.
Federer still holds the record for the overall number of Grand Slam singles titles won (17), but Nadal is closing quickly on that figure. The 27-year-old Spaniard will claim his 14th title – and join Pete Sampras in second place on the all-time list – if he wins on Sunday.
In contesting his 19th Grand Slam final, Nadal will also equal Ivan Lendl’s total, which is bettered only by Federer’s tally of 24. If he beats Wawrinka, he will join Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only men to win each of the four Grand Slam tournaments twice.
It is not much of an “if”, even though Wawrinka is a much improved player who will replace Federer as the Swiss No 1 for the first time next week. The world No 8 has played Nadal on 12 occasions, lost every time and not won one of the 26 sets they have played.
Nadal, who has now won 12 Grand Slam semi-finals in succession, played what he considered to be his best match of the tournament to beat Federer in two hours and 24 minutes. Although the Spaniard did not break serve for more than an hour, he took charge from the start as the match fell into a familiar pattern. While Federer always looked to attack, Nadal kept passing him at the net, his speed around the court taking him into positions where he was able to hit some stunning winners.
The world No 1 served more consistently – Federer’s only two break points of the match came in a loose service game by Nadal early in the third set – and his tactic of hitting high-bouncing balls with his forehand to Federer’s backhand paid, as usual, a regular dividend.
Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory over Federer
Federer, who has won only one of his last 10 matches against opponents ranked No 1 in the world, had looked in excellent form in his first five matches here and had swept aside Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray, but as he admitted afterwards, the challenge of taking on Nadal is of a much higher order.
“It’s totally different playing Rafa over anybody else,” he said. “Playing Murray or Rafa is day and night. It’s not because of the level necessarily. It’s just that every point is played in a completely different fashion and I have to totally change my game. That’s not an excuse. It’s just a fact.”
Federer, who was playing in his 11th successive Australian Open semi-final, held on in the first set, saving three break points, but was outplayed in the tie-break, which he lost 7-4. Nadal, who called for a trainer early in the second set for treatment to a nasty blister on his left hand, increased the pressure on Federer’s serve in the next two sets. By the end he had forced 14 break points, converting four of them.
The Spaniard made the one break of the second set in the sixth game and broke again early in the third, but dropped his own serve in the next game. It was only delaying the inevitable. Nadal broke again to go 4-3 up and for good measure made his fourth break of the match to close out victory.
“I played well tonight, probably my best match of the tournament,” Nadal said. “I’ve played against Roger a lot of times and a lot of times I’ve played great against him. That’s probably why I had this success against him, but you never know when that will end. I’m just happy that I was able to beat him again.”
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