Rafael Nadal won his 13th straight Grand Slam semifinal beating Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4 in an epic 4 hour, 56 minute semifinal thrill ride.
Nadal was made to fight hard against the 25-year-old Bulgarian who had snapped a 7-match losing streak against the Spaniard in Beijing last fall. Dimitrov entered on a 10-match winning streak off a Brisbane title.
Nadal advances to his 21st career Grand Slam final, fourth at the Australian Open, and to reach win his second Australian Open title he’ll have to beat rival Roger Federer. He leads Federer 23-11 and has won six of eight in Slam finals, winning most recently at the 2011 French Open. Nadal is also 3-0 against Federer in Australia.
Afterward the long match, his second 5-set win over the event, Nadal met the press.
Q. How do you feel? And if you remember, how did you feel when you beat Verdasco seven years ago? Do you think you can recover in time?
RAFAEL NADAL: That what I going to try. I did in 2009. I am seven, eight years older. But now is not the time to talk about that. Is time to be happy, very happy. Have fantastic match. Very emotional.
I think Grigor played great. I played great. So was a great quality of tennis tonight. So just for me, is amazing to be through to a final of Grand Slam again here in Australia at the first of the year. Means a lot to me. I feel the love of the people here. They give me a lot of positive energy.
Just I think I feel very happy to be part of this match, no? Arrive moment in the fifth set that for sure I wanted to win. I say to myself, I am giving my best, I am playing very well. If I lose, that’s it. Grigor deserves, too.
I think both of us deserve to be in that final. Was a great fight. Finally was me. I feel lucky. I am very happy for that.
Q. A while ago you opened your new academy and invited Roger to come. If someone said when you were both hurt, you could not play your exhibition, that you would meet your rival in the Australian Open final, what would you say to them?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, that moment was amazing for our village, Manacor. I said hundreds of time, but I can’t stop to say thanks because was very emotional moment for everybody in Manacor, for everybody in the academy, for the kids, too.
No, in that moment, for sure we never thought that we had the chance to be, again, in a final, and especially in the first of the year. Happened. Both of us I think worked very hard to be where we are. Is great. Is great that, again, we are in a moment like this and we going to have a chance again to enjoy a moment like this.
Just very happy for me and very happy for him because I think going to be a very nice moment.
Q. Has this been the best match of your last two years and the most exciting of all?
RAFAEL NADAL: I just go out of the court. I don’t have the chance to think that much. But obviously have been a very emotional match, very special one.
Q. What was the lowest point last year, the point where you never would have dreamed this was possible?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am a positive person. I never say never because I worked very hard to be where I am. I really have been working very hard and very well.
Before coming here, I said in the press conference before the tournament, I am practicing very well. I didn’t thought about be where I am today. I always had the confidence that if I am able to win some matches, then anything can happen.
But last year was tough. When you feel that you are playing very well and you have to go from Roland Garros without going on court, I remember myself crying on the car coming back to hotel, no? That was a tough moment.
But then I tried very hard for to play the Olympics. I take risks to play Olympics because it is a very special event for me. To represent my country there was so important. I take the risk. Was a great Olympic Game for me. Having gold medal in doubles. I was close to having a medal in singles. If I have to be back there, I would play again.
But after that, I played the US Open with okay conditions. After that, the hand was not there any more, no? I had to stop, and was a great decision, I think.
Q. The talk over the next couple of days will be about the romanticism of you playing Roger, two legends playing in a final. Is that something you think about, or is it just another final?
RAFAEL NADAL: Is special play with Roger again in a final of a Grand Slam. I cannot lie. Is great. Is exciting for me and for both of us that we still there and we still fighting for important events. So that’s important for us, I think. That’s very special.
After that, you know, is a final. Is a very important match for both of us. I hope to be ready to compete well again. I need to go back to the hotel, to rest well, and to recover from now.
Q. Does the fact that you have a better record against Roger, and you also beat him the three times you played here, have any value when you get on the court on Sunday or not really?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, was a long time ago. Is a different match, different moment for both of us. I think this match is completely different than what happened before.
Is special. We have not been there in that situation for a while, so that makes the match different. I really don’t think about what happened in the past. I think the player who play better is going to be the winner.
Q. Recovery is going to be ultra important. Given your opponent has an extra day to recover, is there anything special you’re going to do over the next two days?
RAFAEL NADAL: Now I going to go back to the locker room and say thanks to my team for the support, then just try to recover. First of all, I need to go to sleep. That’s the first thing that is important for the recover. After that try to do all the things the right way to be ready for Sunday.
Q. Do you think it’s fair to have semifinals in two different days or should be played the same day?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, is not a problem. For me is fair enough. Is true that if you play a match like I had today, probably is true that you are in disadvantage, yes. But that’s a special situation, no? I cannot complain about that. I think is good.
For me was much more unfair when you played the US Open two days in a row because then, yeah, you are in a big disadvantage. If you play a match like I played today, probably tomorrow you are dead, no chance. That’s a more disadvantage than here. I cannot say that’s not fair.
Q. Of your 34 matches with Roger, 21 of them have been played in the finals. What does your great rivalry with Roger mean to you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, was amazing for me, for me and I think for tennis, too. Is the combination of two different styles that makes the matches really special.
Is different way to play tennis. Both of us, I think, having a lot of good success with these two different styles. I feel that this rivalry go not only in the tennis world. People from outside of our world talks about this, and that’s good for our sport. Is good that we are back there.
Q. It’s not only you and Roger, but it’s also the Williams sisters who a lot of people might not have thought would have been in a final either. How incredible is it that four such incredible champions in their 30s are going to be playing in the finals?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, probably is a unique situation. Let’s enjoy of this because probably will not happen again (smiling). That’s what I can say. Just well done for both of the sisters. Going to be a great moment, too.
Q. Crowd-wise that final set, especially the last couple of games, they seemed to get right behind you. Did that lift you?
RAFAEL NADAL: I feel the crowd behind me during the whole event. Was unforgettable. For me receive that huge support means everything to me. Really bring me to another level of energy. I enjoyed a lot.
Just can say many thanks to everybody here in Australia, organization, people who makes possible the event, Tennis Australia, and especially the fans because I feel like home here.
Q. For the second time in the tournament you were given a time violation. What do you have to say on that?
RAFAEL NADAL: Sometimes I deserve. Sometimes not. But sometimes I deserve, yeah. That’s it. But playing a match like today, if you like the sport, if you like these matches of 50 minutes, people don’t remember. Matches like this, the people remember. These kind of matches make the sport little bit bigger because that makes the people more involved on these kind of matches.
If you want to keep watching that great points for five hours, you need to be flexible with that. I think the umpire give me time violation. But then he was flexible with that because he understood that the level of tennis have been just brutal in terms of physical performance. So he understood that. I feel happy for that. Well done for him.
Q. Is this the type of match that speaks for not going to the best-of-three at a Grand Slam, keeping to the best-of-five?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think, yes. These kind of matches, even for the body, destroys your body, but that’s tennis. That’s special. Much more special than playing best-of-three. Should be like this, in my opinion.
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