Rafael Nadal was the last of the four great champions to cooperate in setting up a fairytale final weekend of tennis at the Australian Open this year.
In a nod to age, experience and talent, Rafael Nadal will play old rival Roger Federer in the men’s final on Sunday, while sisters Serena and Venus Williams will contest an all-Williams final for the women’s trophy on Saturday.
The ninth-seeded Nadal completed the dream foursome by capturing a 4-hour, 56-minute battle of attrition, that showcased scintillating tennis, sheer willpower and determination, to win an epic 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 semifinal against 15th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
“It is time to be happy, very happy,” Nadal said. “I have a fantastic match. Very emotional. I think Grigor played great. I played great. So it was a great quality match tonight.”
It’s never happened before in the Open Era that all four singles finalists at a Grand Slam are aged 30-and-over.
Federer, who owns a men’s record 17 Grand Slam titles, and Serena Williams, who is tied with Steffi Graf with 22 Grand Slam titles in the Open Era, are both 35. Venus Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, is the oldest at 36. And Nadal, who has 14 Grand Slam trophies, is the baby of the group at 30.
“Probably is a unique situation,” Nadal said. “Let’s enjoy this because probably will not happen again. Just well done for both of the sisters. Going to be a great moment, too.”
Now Nadal will compete for a 15th Grand Slam trophy, and a second here at the Australian Open. If he achieves the victory, Nadal would become the only man in the Open Era, and the third in history along with Australians Rod Laver and Roy Emerson, to win each major at least twice in their career.
“For me, it’s amazing to be through to a final of a Grand Slam again here in Australia, at the first (major) of the year,” Nadal said.
What makes the Nadal and Federer final so surprising is that both had short seasons last year because of injury. Nadal had a left wrist injury that plagued him throughout much of the year, while Federer skipped the last six months because of a knee injury.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Sandra Harwitt