Victoria Azarenka’s unexpected exit from the Australian Open was not the only news on day 10 of the year’s first Grand Slam. The way the great Roger Federer played in his match against fourth seed Andy Murray of Great Britain was sensational as well. Federer played like old times at the Rod Laver Arena, in his quarterfinal encounter with Murray and after defeating him 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, he carried his Australian Open campaign one step further. His semifinal opponent is none other than the familiar old foe, Rafael Nadal, who won the other quarterfinal final. More about Nadal’s match will follow, later in this article.
In today’s match, Federer lost a set for the first time in the tournament this year. It was the third set of the match, after Federer masterfully outclassed Murray in the first two sets, 6-3, 6-4. Even in the third set tie-break, Federer held two match points but Murray dug deep on his reserves and denied Federer a straight sets victory. The fourth set went the way of the first two and Federer won 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. In the stands today, there were many supporters for Federer, who watched him play vintage tennis to keep them enthralled. He served well, forced his way to the net and defended in great style, all through the match that lasted for 3 hours and 20 minutes. Federer’s new coach, Stefan Edberg was a picture of deep concentration, as he watched his ward play with utter confidence. Federer looked in great touch, though he committed 42 unforced errors. But he also produced 54 winners and won four service breaks. He was all praise for Murray, when he said that his opponent intelligently kept the ball in play, because that is the way to put the pressure on the other guy.
In the first quarterfinal of the day, Rafael Nadal had it tough against Grigor Dimitrov, a rising star from Bulgaria. It was the first grand Slam quarterfinal for the 22nd seeded Bulgarian but he was not overawed, either of the big settings or by the fact that he was face-to-face with the world’s best tennis player. He produced great serves and mixed his game with huge forehand winners in taking the first set 6-3 in 32 minutes. This was unusual for Rafa. In recent memory, no player has done that to him in such style. Dimitrov served four aces in his first two service games and played as if he Rafael Nadal is just another opponent. But the great Rafa fought back to take the second and third sets on tie breaks at 7-6, 7-6. There were couple of instances in the third set, where Dimitrov faultered. He will regret the lapse for a long long time to come. The Bulgarian committed two forehand errors at 6-6 and 7-8 in the tie break, which would have given him the set. In the second set Nadal broke Dimitrov in the second game and it looked that the top seed has found his rhythm. But Dimitrov broke right back in the next game to prove he was still in contention. Afterwards, they were long rallies, which Rafa welcomed with open arms, because he is master in the art of ending such rallies in his favor. At one point in the match, Dimitrov managed a chopped forehand volley, which spun backwards the moment the ball hit the ground and this made impossible for Rafa to reach anywhere near the ball. After winning the tie breaks, Nadal raised his game and took the fourth set with ease. After he won the match, Nadal warmly embraced Dimitrov at the net and paid rich tribute to him.
When Nadal meets Federer in the semifinal, it will be 33rd time that the two tennis greats will be playing each other. Though the Spaniard leads 22-10, every new match has its own character. So it is foolhardy to be making any guesses based on the past record. It is best to look forward to an absorbing duel from two of the greatest players from the history of tennis.