Rafa Nadal defies ‘impossible’ as he reaches final with thrilling win over Roger Federer

WITH queries over his form, fitness and motivation dogging him in the run-up to the Australian Open, Rafa Nadal did not dream he would make the final.

After a thrilling 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-4 win over his great rival Roger Federer at a tension-charged Rod Laver arena yesterday Nadal credited his ability to defy the “impossible” for reaching a fourth consecutive grand slam final.

“I think he started playing aggressive, very, very high level at the beginning of the match,” said Nadal after defeating the Swiss maestro.

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“Always you can do a little bit more, no? But I really felt that when he plays like this, it’s almost impossible to rise there to that level. I was very happy about my result on these two weeks. I did much better than what I thought, what I dreamed for three weeks ago.

“It’s a fantastic victory for me. [I’m] very, very happy playing against the greatest [player] of the history in semi-finals, at a big match on Rod Laver.

“It’s one of the victories that’s gonna stay in my mind forever, no?” Nadal extended his winning record over Federer to 18-9 and his record in grand slams over the Swiss to 8-2. He will bid for an 11th grand slam title against either Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic, who contest the other semi-final this morning.

The Spaniard said he had to change his tactics against a more aggressive Federer, who thrashed him at the season-ending ATP Tour Finals in London and had him on the back foot early in their semi-final.

“I didn’t play as I played hundreds of times against him. I didn’t play all the time against his backhand like I did a lot of times,” he said. “Today I think I played a more normal match, playing in his backhand, playing in his forehand, too.

“I really wanted to do that before the match, because I felt that in the last match against him in London he played very aggressive with his backhand, so he was very inside the court. Even the final of Roland Garros, it was the same. He played more aggressive with his backhand,” he added, referring to his French Open win over the Swiss.

“But today I went on court with the idea to change a little bit more the direction against him, and in my opinion it worked well. Because I think he was a little bit tired.”

Nadal will have an extra day off to prepare for Sunday’s final against Murray or Djokovic and joked that he had no preference.

“I prefer the player who gonna play worse that day,” he quipped. “Both players are top players, very, very high level... so it’s going to be a fantastic tennis match tomorrow. I’m going to watch the match, because it’s going to be a fantastic show, in my opinion.”

Nadal had to console his great friend and rival Federer the last time he beat him at the Australian Open in the 2009 final, but no consolation was necessary this time as the Swiss picked up his bag, waved to the crowd giving the duo a standing ovation and disappeared down the players’ tunnel. “I prefer to walk off this way than having to go through the trophy ceremony after losing,” said Federer.

“You look at that I haven’t lost in five months or something so it’s not that bad,” he added of the 25-match winning streak that ended yesterday. “Don’t feel too sorry for me. Obviously I would have loved to have come through and gotten a crack, a chance at winning the title here again. Clearly I’m disappointed... but then again what is important is the reaction from now, where do I go from here?”

Federer’s reaction was not surprising, given that at 30 years old he remains among the elite of the men’s game and is still pushing men five years, and more, his junior to their absolute limits. “I thought Rafa played well from start to finish,” Federer said. “I always think he plays a bit better against me than against other players, but that’s good for him.”