Nadal sets up dream Federer date

Tennis Australian Open

Nadal sets up dream Federer date

Spaniard quells fighting Berdych; clinical Clijsters dashes Wozniacki hopes

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic during their quarterfinal at the Australian Open tennis championship, in Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday. AP

Roger Federer sauntered through at the Australian Open on Tuesday to set up a first Grand Slam semifinal against Rafael Nadal since 2005 after the Spaniard fought tooth and nail to keep his own hopes alive.

So long ranked one and two in the world rankings, until Novak Djokovic broke their duopoly, their meetings have more often than not been reserved for finals, one of which came three years ago in Melbourne when Nadal reduced Federer to tears.

Federer looked in the mood to add to his 16 Grand Slam titles when the Swiss third seed produced another sublime display full of dazzling winners to fell Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in his 1,000 career match.

Nadal was given a torrid time against Tomas Berdych late into the night on a heaving Rod Laver Arena, however, before grinding to a 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.

The stadium also witnessed the demise of women's world number one Caroline Wozniacki, whose counter-punching style was meat and drink to big-hitting Belgian Kim Clijsters.

Her quarterfinal defeat against the 2011 champion means she will lose top spot in the rankings and means one of Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka or Petra Kvitova will seize the the No 1 position by the end of the year's first Grand Slam.

While neither Nadal nor Federer can shake the number one ranking free of Djokovic's grasp in Melbourne, the stylish Swiss and swashbuckling Spaniard are desperate to stop the Serb dominating the slams the way he did in 2011.

Federer, who failed to win a major title last year for the first time since 2002, had an unexpectedly straightforward win over Del Potro, needing just under two hours to prevail.

Chasing a fifth title in Melbourne, he was never seriously threatened in his first meeting with Del Potro in a major since he was surprisingly beaten in the 2009 US Open final.
Federer, who lost a five-set classic to Nadal in the 2009 Australian Open final, will now get the chance to avenge that defeat against the Spaniard.

“Obviously I'd like to play Rafa because of our great epic match in the finals here a few years ago,” he said before Nadal had stepped on court against Berdych. “I'd like to get a chance to play him again here.”

His wish came true, but only just as Nadal flirted with a two-set deficit against an inspired Berdych.

A set down and facing set point in the second set tiebreak, Nadal was given a let-off when a lunging Berdych volleyed into the tramlines and he dug himself out of trouble to overhaul the tall Czech in a taxing four-hour tussle under the lights.

Nadal said his matches against Federer would always be significant, even though neither of them are number one.

The pair's only previous meeting in the last four of a major was at the French Open in 2005 when Nadal won before going on to claim his first Grand Slam title.

Four-times Grand Slam winner Clijsters has said this will be her last season on Tour and few rivals will be shedding any tears after her dismantling of Wozniacki suggested she could dominate women's tennis for years to come.

Crowd favourite Clijsters ended the Dane's hopes of winning a first Grand Slam with a 6-3, 7-6 triumph as temperatures pushed up to 35 centigrade at Melbourne Park.

“It definitely didn't feel like being up a set and 5-2,” Clijsters said in a courtside interview.
“I was happy to get through and not go to a three-setter because it's so hot.”

While Azarenka has a reputation for getting hot under the collar, the Belarussian showed her composed side against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska in their quarterfinal.

Despite going a set down, Azarenka raised her game to pole-axe Radwanska in the second set and grind out the third for a 6-7, 6-0, 6-2 win.

“I think I am a different player right now, especially mentally-wise,” Azarenka said.

Quarterfinal results (prefix denotes seeding): Men’s singles: 2-Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt 7-Tomas Berdych (Czech) 6-7(7-5), 7-6(8-6), 6-4, 6-3; 3-Roger Federer (Sui) bt 11-Juan Martin del Potro (Arg) 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
Women’s singles: 11-Kim Clijsters (Bel) bt 1-Caroline Wozniacki (Den) 6-3, 7-6 (7-4); 3-Victoria Azarenka (Blr) bt 8-Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol) 6-7 (0-7), 6-0, 6-2.

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