14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal sailed into Friday’s semi-final clash with Grigor Dimitrov, but the Spaniard hinted his fierce rival Roger Federer may be the man to beat.
Nadal astonishingly brushed aside world No 3 Milos Raonic with relative ease 6-4 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 in two hours and 44 minutes to reach the last four at Melbourne Park.
2009 remains Nadal’s only Australian Open victory, but since returning from an injury-plagued 2016, the three-time finalist in Melbourne continues to gather momentum and produce exceptional performances.
The 30-year-old is adamant looking past Grigor Dimitrov is a huge mistake, but when asked his thoughts on a Rafa-Roger final, Nadal hinted his long-time rival is back looking strong, and it’s brilliant to see.
“Now, I have a very tough match against Dimitrov,” he said. “What happens on the other side of the draw is great for tennis that Roger is there again after the injury.
“The real thing is, he’s back and he’s probably ready to win again. Roger is a legend of our sport.”
Federer’s blistering form after overcoming lengthy injuries in 2016 is remarkable, but Nadal also had his own troubles and was forced to withdraw from Roland Garros after injuring his left wrist, which meant Wimbledon was also abandoned.
The 9-time French Open champion addressed the mental struggle of dealing with injuries, when he said: “Even when I was winning a lot I had doubts, so you can imagine I had more when I’m not.
“I think I’ve had a great career but at the same time I’ve had a lot of tough moments, so that makes me enjoy even more the good moments.”
Nadal meets the world No 15 Girgor Dimitrov in Friday’s semi-final on the Rod Laver Arena. Dimitrov crushed Belgium’s David Goffin 6-3 6-2 6-2 in two hours and twelve minutes to continue his unbeaten run in 2017 – the Bulgarian has played nine, won nine after claiming the Brisbane International.
The Spaniard has proved to be a challenge too great for Dimitrov in previous meetings – Nadal boasts seven wins to Dimitrov’s one, although, the 25-year-old won their most recent duel 6-2 6-4 in 2016 at the China Open.
The ‘King of Clay’ knows Friday’s encounter with Dimitrov will be an arduous battle if he’s to reach his fourth final at Melbourne Park.
“He’s playing very confident, he’s playing very well, and I know I’m going to have a very tough match,” Nadal said.
“He’s a player that has been on the Tour for a lot of years already, he’s a player that has unbelievable talent, unbelievable potential.
“It’s going to be a very tough match for me. I hope for him too.”
When asked whether he will catch any of Thursday’s all-Swiss semi-final between Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, Nadal’s response was reminiscent of probably the vast majority of sports fans.
“Well, I love the sport more than anything. If you don’t want to watch this match then you don’t like a lot of sport.”