Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nadal Adds to Old Folks' Run; for the First Time,all Four Finalists in Singles Are in 30s

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nadal Adds to Old Folks' Run; for the First Time,all Four Finalists in Singles Are in 30s

Article excerpt

MELBOURNE, Australia * 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 grueling, 4- hour, 56-minute semifinal.

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 semifinals, 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 semifinal started in prime time Friday (early in the morning St. Louis time) and finished at 12:45 a.m. Dimitrov, who had only beaten Nadal once in eight previous matches and was in a Grand Slam semifinal for only the second time, played the match of his life.

Nadal took some moments to commend Dimitrov after converting his third match point, pointing toward the 25-year-old Bulgarian and gesturing to the cheering crowd like a conductor acknowledging his orchestra.

"Grigor played great. I played great. So was a great quality of tennis," he said. "So just for me, is amazing to be through to a final of Grand Slam again here in Australia at the first of the year."

Nadal said he wasn't entirely confident he could beat Dimitrov when he was deep into the deciding set after midnight and had to fend off break points in the eighth game.

"Arrive moment in the fifth set that for sure I wanted to win. I say to myself, 'I am giving my best, I am playing very well. If I lose, that's it. Grigor deserves, too,'" he said. "I think both of us deserve to be in that final. …

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