Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fed Licks Lips as Rafa and Grigor Slug It Out

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fed Licks Lips as Rafa and Grigor Slug It Out

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Newman in Melbourne

ROGER FEDERER, his place already secured in the Australian Open final, must have been the most satisfied observer here today as Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov threatened to run themselves into the ground in their fight to earn a Sunday showdown with the 17-times Grand Slam champion.

Twenty-four hours after 35-year-old Federer became the oldest man for 43 years to secure a place in a Grand Slam final, Nadal, 30, and Dimitrov, 25, were locked in a gripping contest in Rod Laver Arena.

After Dimitrov (below) had levelled the match by taking the second set, Nadal won a tense tie-break at the end of the third and was leading 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 1-0 as the match went into a fourth hour.

In the early stages Dimitrov appeared to be in danger of being overwhelmed by Nadal's sheer physical power but the world No15 responded in admirable fashion. While Nadal played his usual counter-punching game from the baseline, Dimitrov went on the attack and was never afraid to get into the net.

Nevertheless, the gulf in experience between the two was vast. The Spaniard was playing in his 24th Grand Slam semi-final, having lost at this stage on only three previous occasions, while the Bulgarian was appearing in just his second, having lost to Novak Djokovic when he reached the last four at ust g c t Wimbledon in 2014.

When Dimitrov made his breakthrough that summer the brightest of futures beckoned, but the former world No8 lost his way in the next two years and had fallen to No40 in the world rankings by last summer.

At the end of the year, however, Dimitrov appointed a new coach in Dani Vallverdu, who had been a long-time member of Andy Murray's entourage.

The Venezuelan's impact was positive from the start and Dimitrov went into today's match having won all 10 matches he had played so far this year -- lifting the Brisbane title in the first week of the season. …

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