For the first time in the last 30 months, Spain’s former world no.1 and the undisputed King-of-Clay Rafael Nadal has reached a Grand Slam semifinal. In the 2017 Australian Open, the legendary Spaniard is in the bottom half of men’s singles draw, from where the highest seeded man Novak Djokovic has already made his exit. On Wednesday, Nadal’s victory over the third-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic was a solid proof that the 30-year old Spaniard could not be counted lightly even now. In some ways, Nadal’s forays at Melbourne bear direct comparison with the other legend, Roger Federer. The Swiss Maestro has also reached the last-four from the top half, which doesn’t have pre-tournament favorite Andy Murray. Now Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka are the only two hurdles that could stop the much-awaited title clash between modern era’s two most crowned tennis superstars. If that happens, this would be the first time after 2011 French Open final that Nadal and Federer will play against each other in a Grand Slam final.
Another legend and former women’s world no.1 Serena Williams also reached the semifinal of the Australian Open and she looks certain to clinch her Grand Slam title no.23. Serena has played effortlessly at Melbourne and she is yet to drop a set. Incidentally, women’s semifinal line-up has three American women, something that has not happened in recent memory. That also means one of them is definitely reaching the final.
Rafael Nadal’s three-set victory over the big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic on Wednesday was his best moment to savor after an injury-plagued past few years. Nadal is feared by his opponent for his massive forehand but in the opening set against Raonic, it was his backhand that did the trick. The Spaniard broke the Canadian in the seventh game with a brilliant backhand lob to lead 4-3. That lead stayed over the next three games and Nadal took the set without any hiccups.
It was the second set, however, that brought the best out of Rafael Nadal. Both players kept holding their serves and tiebreak became imminent. In the tiebreak they fought closely but Raonic extracted two set points at 6-4. He wasted the first, when he sent a backhand long on Nadal’s service. Raonic lost his second chance as well by serving a double fault but the set wasn’t over by any means. Raonic earned another set point at 7-6 that Nadal not only saved, but eked out a set point for himself at 8-7. Nadal got kind of lucky, when Raonic’s forehand clipped the net and flew wide. Nadal now had a 2-set lead over his opponent.
The third set went the way of the first with both players holding their service until 5-4. Now Raonic needed to win the game on his service to make it 5-5. Nadal made it 0-15 with a crunching backhand and when Raonic netted a backhand, he made it 0-30. It became 0-40 after an arduously long rally as Nadal seized control and held three match points. Nadal converted on the first and reached the semifinal with a 6-4, 7-6, 6-4 victory. Before Nadal could reach the championship game on Friday, he will have to contend with Bulgarian 15th seed Grigor Dimitrov, who also elicited a great performance in defeating Belgium’s David Goffin. Dimitrov dominated Goffin from start to finish in a nearly one-sided 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory.
Nadal’s brilliance on Wednesday could only have been matched by woman’s second-seed Serena Williams, who raced to her 34th Grand Slam semifinal with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Britain’s Johanna Konta. Serena came up with her best tennis of the tournament against the rising British star. The American’s fearsome service and powerful groundstrokes left Konta in complete awe. With sister Venus also reaching the semifinal on Tuesday, this is the first time that two players over 35 have reached the last four of a Grand Slam tournament. Serena now plays the born-again Marjana Lucic-Baroni for a place in this year’s Australian Open final. Tennis analysts feel that on current form, Serena should win her 23rd Grand Slam at Melbourne and that will also make it her seventh Australian Open crown in women’s singles. Since Serena’s sister Venus plays her semifinal against another American Coco Vandeweghe, one American woman is already ensured the final berth this year.
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