Fed­erer: Bring on Nadal

Ser­ena storms, while Venus rises to set up retro women’s fi­nal Down Un­der

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - REUTERS AND DPA

ROGER Fed­erer reached his first Aus­tralian Open fi­nal in seven years yes­ter­day with a 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 win in his semi-fi­nal and then made it as clear as he po­litely could that he would wel­come the chance to re­new his epic ri­valry with Rafa Nadal as he chases his 18th Grand Slam ti­tle.

The 35-year-old Swiss came through a five-set bat­tle with com­pa­triot Stan Wawrinka to set up a fi­nal against Spa­niard Nadal or Bul­gar­ian Grigor Dim­itrov, who meet in to­day’s sec­ond semi-fi­nal.

“It’s real, I can re­ally ac­tu­ally talk about a fi­nal. I’ve been dodg­ing that bul­let for the last few days,” Fed­erer,

said. “Rafa’s given me the most prob­lems in the game ... I’m prob­a­bly Rafa’s num­ber one fan, I think his game is just tremen­dous. He’s an in­cred­i­ble com­peti­tor.

“I’m happy that we’ve had some epic bat­tles over the years and of course it would be un­real to play him here.”

While Fed­erer’s pref­er­ence seemed clear, he did not earn his rep­u­ta­tion as one of the great gen­tle­men of sport with­out pay­ing due re­spect to both of his po­ten­tial op­po­nents.

“(Dim­itrov’s) got a very com­plete game. He can mix it up re­ally well. He’s very con­fi­dent and you never want to play con­fi­dent play­ers, but it’s him or Rafa,” said Fed­erer, laugh­ing. “It’s go­ing to be tough ei­ther way.”

Both Fed­erer and Nadal missed the back end of last sea­son be­cause of in­jury, the Swiss af­ter his first ever knee surgery and Nadal be­cause of a wrist in­jury.

Fed­erer said nei­ther of them would have be­lieved they would be po­ten­tially meet­ing in a Grand Slam fi­nal when they got to­gether to open the Spa­niard’s acad­emy in Mal­lorca just a few months ago.

“I was on one leg, he had the wrist in­jury and we were play­ing some mini-ten­nis with some ju­niors and we said: ‘That’s the best we can do right now’,” he said.

“A few months later, we’re po­ten­tially go­ing to be in the fi­nal. I think it’s been a very spe­cial tour­na­ment for both of us al­ready.”

Fed­erer, un­usu­ally, took a med­i­cal time­out in his three­hour, five-minute bat­tle with Wawrinka, say­ing he had been car­ry­ing an up­per leg in­jury.

He said he was not wor­ried about it and noth­ing was go­ing to stop him from tak­ing to the court and fight­ing it out for a fifth Aus­tralian Open crown on Rod Laver Arena on Sun­day.

“I’ll leave it all out here in Aus­tralia and if I can’t walk for an­other five months, that’s okay. I’ll give it my best shot,” he said. “It feels amaz­ing. I never, ever in my wildest dreams thought I would come this far in Aus­tralia. I have a cou­ple of days off. It’s beau­ti­ful, I’m so happy.”

Mean­while, the Wil­liams sis­ters dis­patched all op­po­si­tion on the Aus­tralia Day hol­i­day yes­ter­day, with Venus and Ser­ena set to bat­tle for a Grand Slam ti­tle for the first time in eight years.

Venus over­came Coco Van­deweghe 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-3.

Ser­ena, 35-years-old and with 22 Grand Slam sin­gles tro­phies, was untested in a 6-2, 6-1 win over Mir­jana Lu­cic-Ba­roni, 34, whose fairy­tale run af­ter a ca­reer blighted by in­jury, pro­vided the feel-good story of the fort­night.

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