Rafael Nadal has a dominant head-to-head record against Roger Federer. Image courtesy of abcnews.go.com
He has won 17 Grand Slam titles but, considering many consider him the greatest of all-time, Roger Federer’s record against his greatest rival weighs heavily against him. Rafael Nadal has won 22 of the 32 meetings between the greats. While the Spaniard dominated early on in their clashes on clay, the last couple of years he has proved to be the better player on hardcourt, as well. Nadal has won six of their last seven contests, and six of those matches were on hardcourt. He has won both previous meetings in the Victorian capital, and this is the biggest blockbuster the pair has played since they met in the last four of the 2012 Australian Open.
One thing playing in Federer’s favour heading in to Friday night’s semi-final is the fact the plexicushion at Melbourne Park has been playing faster than in previous years, and it has been shown by the lack of counter-punchers who have been able to move deep in to the tournament. Thankfully, shotmakers like Federer and his countryman Stanislas Warwinka have flourished to produce some of the more aesthetically pleasing tennis at this Slam in a number of years, as opposed to the slugfests that have been the norm in the tournament of late.
Nadal got a fright in the quarter-finals when another player not afraid to go for his shots – Grigor Dimitrov – really should have sent him packing. The Bulgarian who has been unfairly compared to Federer in the past, ripped through the first set 6-3, but lost the next two in tie-breaks. In the third set breaker, he missed two easy half-court forehands that ended up costing him dearly as the Spaniard hardly needed a second invitation to wrap the match up in four . The world number one has played noticeably closer to the baseline on hardcourt the past couple of years but the free-swinging Dimitrov had him deep in the court in defensive mode for a large part of the match. Nadal was surprisingly pushed by talented but lightweight Japanese star Kei Nishikori 7-6 7-5 7-6 . The southpaw has been hampered by a blister on his left hand over the last couple of matches and given his troubles against Dimitrov and Nishikori, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t had a sizeable effect on his performance.
Federer has cruised through the draw, including a super-impressive three-set win over an in-form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the round of 16. He looks comfortable with new strings and a new coach in Stefan Edberg, and he has clearly made an effort to move in to the net and be more aggressive when in charge of a point, but less inclined to pull out his random serve-volley moves when down a break point. He should have wiped Andy Murray out in straight sets on Wednesday night, but fell apart when serving for the match and then played a couple of poor points in the ensuing tie-break. Against the ailing Scot - who appeared to be moaning and groaning more than usual in his first big tournament since undergoing back surgery – Federer did what he had to do in the fourth to close out the match to avenge his loss to Murray at the semi-final stage last year.
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