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Federer, Nadal set for blockbuster Aussie semifinal

The Sports Network

1/22/2014 10:07:18 AM

Melbourne, Australia - Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will resume their rivalry in the Australian Open semifinals after each posted four- set quarterfinal victories on Wednesday.

The world No. 1 Nadal was the first to advance, claiming a 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 triumph over 22nd-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, before Federer reached his 11th straight Aussie Open semi with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 victory over fourth-seeded Andy Murray at Rod Laver Arena.

The former No. 1 great Federer, seeded sixth at this fortnight, reached the final four of a Grand Slam for the first time since falling to the reigning Wimbledon champion Murray in the Melbourne semis last year. He was a quarterfinal loser at the French Open last spring, then suffered a stunning second-round loss at Wimbledon and a fourth-round exit at the U.S. Open.

The 17-time Grand Slam champ is seeking his first Aussie crown since 2010, when he beat Murray in the final. The 26-year-old Murray is a three-time Aussie runner-up, including last year here against Novak Djokovic.

After Federer took the first two sets from Murray, including a brisk 31-minute opening stanza, the Brit fought back in the third, saving two match points in the tiebreak.

Federer served for the match, leading 5-4 in the third, but Murray notched his first break, on only his first break-point of the match, against the Swiss icon, who had not been broken in 50 consecutive service games.

The four-time Aussie Open champion Federer opened up 5-2 and 6-4 leads in the tiebreak, but had the match points thwarted. First a forehand error and then a backhand error as Murray stayed alive. The Scot would then paint a line with a forehand winner to earn a set point and converted to force a fourth set.

A resilient Murray kept the match tight in the fourth, but he gave Federer too many open chances. Finally, on his 10th break point of the set, the Swiss stepped in with a big backhand return to set up a winning point and then served things out.

Federer broke Murray four times, while the Brit settled for only one break in only two break-point opportunities all night.

"Andy played well and put the pressure on me so I'm happy to get the win," a relieved Federer said in a courtside interview. "I probably miss more break points than other guys but I keep my composure and keep the poker face and tonight it worked."

The 32-year-old Federer is now 10-11 lifetime against Murray, including 2-1 at the Aussie.

A rusty Murray returned to action just a few weeks ago after being sidelined for 3 1/2 months following minor back surgery.

Meanwhile, the 2009 Aussie Open champ and 2012 runner-up Nadal dropped the first set to Dimitrov on Day 10, but the 13-time major titlist gritted through a pair of tough tiebreaks over the next two sets before running away with the final set at Melbourne Park. The bout ended in 3 hours, 37 minutes.

"I was so lucky," Nadal said. "It gives me the opportunity to be in semifinals of a tournament I love so much."

It will be the fourth semifinal appearance at the Aussie Open for the reigning U.S. and French Open champ.

The rising star Dimitrov, who became the first Bulgarian to reach the last eight of a Grand Slam singles event, dropped to 0-4 in his career against Nadal. He smacked 16 aces in a losing effort.

The left-handed Nadal improved to 4-0 lifetime against the 22-year-old Dimitrov.

Nadal and Federer will meet for a 33rd time on Friday, with the Spaniard leading the all-time series, 22-10, including 8-2 in Grand Slam action. Nadal is 2-0 versus Federer at the Aussie, including a win in the 2009 finale.

The high-flying Nadal has won four straight and eight of their last 10 meetings overall.

The "Big Four" of Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Federer have combined to win 34 of the last 35 Grand Slam events.

The first men's semifinal will be staged on Thursday, when seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych takes on eighth seed Stanislas Wawrinka. Both men will appear in their first-ever Aussie semi. Wawrinka is 8-5 lifetime against the former Wimbledon runner-up Berdych, but the Czech captured their lone Aussie Open meeting in 2009. Wawrinka bested Berdych in the fourth round at the U.S. Open back in September.