Nadal presses on to extend his mastery over Federer

Spaniard reaches fourth consecutive Grand Slam final by provoking string of errors from erratic Swiss

Melbourne Park

It has been described as the greatest rivalry in modern tennis, but this is becoming as close as the Christians' contests against the lions. Roger Federer's meeting with Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of the Australian Open here yesterday was their 10th in Grand Slam tournaments, equalling the Open era record set by Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe, and for the fifth time in a row it was the Spaniard who emerged as the winner.

Nadal's 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-4 victory in a thrilling contest, full of the quality and high drama we have come to expect from two of the finest players in the history of the game, was his eighth over Federer at Grand Slam level and his 18th in their 27 meetings in all tournaments. Federer's only victories over the world No 2 in Grand Slam events came in the Wimbledon finals of 2006 and 2007.

"It's one of the victories that's going to stay in my mind for ever," Nadal said afterwards. "I enjoy playing against him. It's always a special feeling."

Federer had won 24 matches in a row going into the match, his last defeat having been against Novak Djokovic in last year's US Open semi-finals, but when it comes to the big occasions Nadal usually has his number. Of current players who have met the Swiss more than once, Nadal is one of just two – Andy Murray is the other – who have a winning head-to-head record against him.

"I always think he plays a bit better against me than against other players," Federer said after his latest defeat. There have been times when Federer has not been the best of losers, but he invariably gives credit to Nadal when the Spaniard is his conqueror. "I thought Rafa played well from start to finish," he said. "He does a good job getting a lot of balls back and staying in the points and then obviously he's got great passing shots."


Djokovic may have stolen Nadal's thunder last season, beating him in six successive finals and taking his position at the top of the world rankings, but the Spaniard has maintained a phenomenal record in Grand Slam tournaments. Sunday's meeting with Djokovic or Murray will be his fourth consecutive appearance in a Grand Slam final and his seventh in the last eight. In reaching his 15th final Nadal has only six men ahead of him on the all-time list – Federer (23), Lendl (19), Pete Sampras (18), Rod Laver (17), Bjorn Borg (16) and Ken Rosewall (16).

On the day before the tournament started Nadal wondered whether he would even make it to the start line because of an injury to his right knee, which has been heavily strapped throughout the fortnight, but he reported no physical problems after reaching the final. "I was in my room crying because I believed I didn't have the chance to play," he recalled. "Two weeks later I am here, so it is a dream."

In the past Nadal has reaped a rich dividend by targeting Federer's backhand, but this time his tactics were different. He kept pulling his opponent from side to side, played closer to the baseline on his backhand and pressured Federer into a flow of mistakes. More than half of Federer's 63 unforced errors were on his forehand, which has always been regarded as one of the greatest strokes in the game.

Playing in his ninth consecutive Australian Open semi-final, Federer made the best possible start, breaking Nadal in the second game and going on to win the first tie-break 7-5. When he broke again in the opening game of the second set he appeared to be in command, but Nadal, ruthlessly punishing second serves, broke the Swiss in three of his next four service games to level the match.

Federer, who needs one more win to equal Jimmy Connors' record of 233 Grand Slam victories, again made the first break in the third set, but played an erratic tie-break, which proved to be an apt summary of his current status. There are still times when Federer can play as brilliantly as ever, but sustaining that level over a five-set match against one of the leading players is another matter.

Making a succession of ugly errors, Federer went 6-1 down in the tie-break before playing the next four points impeccably. At 6-5, however, he put a forehand into the net as Nadal finally converted his sixth set point.

By now the Spaniard was hitting some stunning passing shots and after Federer missed a good chance to break for 5-3 in the fourth set, putting a forehand wide, the end was swift. Nadal broke in the next game and served out for the match, which he won when Federer hit a forehand long.

When asked who he would like to meet in the final, Nadal had a simple reply. "I prefer the player who's going to play worse that day," he said.

Suggested Topics
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'