The last spot in the finals is up for grabs tonight in Melbourne. Already into the Australian Open final is one Roger Federer who edged Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 in a 3-hour thriller last night.
Federer continued to show he can beat time and beat the very best, scoring his second Top 5 win of the tournament (both in 5 sets) in his 14th straight win over Wawrinka on hard courts.
Early on, Wawrinka hung tough and actually played pretty well, but Federer was the aggressor and he was rewarded for it.
Federer opened things up in the second securing an early break which prompted Wawrinka to break his racquet on his leg. The effort didn’t do much as Federer cruised. With hints of injury, it looked like another quick night for Roger.
Sure enough, Wawrinka left the court for medical treatment after the end of the second, but upon returning there was still no sign of life. That is until a sudden break and Wawrinka got his game going, reeling off six straight games to take the second and go up 1-0 in the fourth.
Stan really started to find his groove, dominating Federer who was starting to wane.
Then as we started the fifth, it was Federer’s turn to leave the court. Gamesmanship? I don’t know, but it didn’t seem to matter much. Stan had an early chance, let it slip. Roger pounced on his and it was over.
Quick court, helped Federer, hurt Stan. I don’t know about these injuries, but both guys, at times, were not moving great. Other times they were.
The big takeaway is Federer gets the extra day off to recover any adductor, as he says, issues he has and luckily for Roger it wasn’t that long of a match nor that physical.
Again, two weeks ago when the draw came out, who really would have thought Federer would be in the final? It’s quite remarkable for someone who hasn’t played in six months or been the Australian Open final since 2010! Yet here he is. Amazing.
“I’m in the finals, I know that,” Federer said. “I know I will have a chance to win on Sunday now. That’s a great position to be in. Regardless of who it’s going to be against, I think it’s going to be special either way. One is going to go for his first slam or it’s the epic battle with Rafa.
“All I care about is that I can win on Sunday. Doesn’t matter who’s across the net. But I understand the magnitude of the match against Nadal, no doubt about it.”
So will it be Rafa?
Rafael Nadal v Grigor Dimitrov
Grigor is the hot guy right now in 2017. He won Brisbane beating three Top 10 players and he’s carried that momentum into this week with wins over Richard Gasquet and David Goffin.
Now it’s a big step up to face Rafael Nadal. And he’s got to do it in the biggest match of his life, playing just his second Grand Slam semifinal and trying to spoil the tennis world’s dream of a Federer-Nadal Sunday final.
I think Grigor has the game to trouble Nadal (this Nadal, not the better version of Nadal), I just don’t know if mentally he can handle the moment.
This isn’t winning Brisbane or Acapulco, or beating Gasquet or Goffin. This is beating Rafa on a big stage over five sets in a Grand Slam semifinal. A stage where Rafa doesn’t like to lose – I believe he’s won 12 straight and 20 of 23 in Slam semis.
And to Nadal’s credit, he has improved his play. Granted, Raonic didn’t do much and Gael Monfils still can’t figure out how to play Rafa, but Nadal’s been serving better than at the start of the event, and if he continues that trend he should be okay against Dimitrov.
Just like playing Roger, Rafa will go to the well and use that forehand-to-backhand exchange and as long as Rafa gets some depth on that that he’ll get the better.
That said, Dimitrov has the speed and the firepower to punish Nadal on short balls, especially on a quick court. And this could really be the Bulgarian’s moment, his big breakthrough which is quite a turnaround considering he was ranked No. 40 last summer.
“I feel like I have all the tools to go further, and my job isn’t over yet,” Dimitrov said. “I’m looking forward to my match on Friday. I think I’m prepared. I think I’m ready to go the distance.
“I don’t shy away from that. I’m confident enough to say that I feel good physically, and overall like on the court. Just going forward with the confidence that I have built up also from the previous tournament. Now with each match I’ve been feeling better and better. It just all comes pretty natural right now.”
So again, Nadal needs to serve well and get length on his shots. If those things happen, then we’ll get our final.
The pick: Nadal in 4
ESPN will have live coverage starting at 3:30am! Get some sleep now!
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