Nadal sets up Australian Open classic final vs Federer


January 28, 2017
Spain's Rafael Nadal falls to the court as he celebrates after defeating Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov during their semifinal at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday. (AP Photo)
Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov makes a forehand return to Spain's Rafael Nadal during their semifinal at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo)


Rafael Nadal fended off Grigor Dimitrov in five long sets to set up a vintage title match against Roger Federer at the Australian Open, where every singles finalist is in their 30s.

Nadal completed the 30-plus finals quartet Friday night when he beat Dimitrov 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 in a gruelling, 4-hour, 56-minute semi-final.

Federer, 35, and the Williams sisters 36-year-old Venus and 35-year-old Serena had clinched their spots in the finals on Throwback Thursday.

After clinching his 21st win in 24 major semi-finals, the 30-year-old Nadal dropped to the court behind the baseline and lay face down for several seconds before getting up and embracing Dimitrov at the net.

His reward for the win is another duel with 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer, the only man with more major titles than he has. Federer's lead is three, but Nadal has beaten the Swiss star in six of their eight major finals.

The Nadal-Dimitrov semi-final started in prime time Friday and finished at 12:45 a.m. Dimitrov, who had only beaten Nadal once in eight previous matches and was in a Grand Slam semi-final for only the second time, played the match of his life.

Federer, off for six months with an injured left knee, was ranked number 17.

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