Australian Open 2017: Rafael Nadal relishes Roger Federer reunion

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal has won 21 of his 24 Grand Slam semi-finals
Australian Open 2017
Venue: Melbourne Park, Melbourne Dates: 16-29 January
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text on the BBC Sport website; TV highlights on BBC Two and online

World number nine Rafael Nadal says his rivalry with Roger Federer transcends tennis as they prepare to meet in Sunday's Australian Open final.

Nadal and Federer both endured five-set matches in their semi-finals.

The Spaniard, 30, has won 23 of his 34 meetings with the 35-year-old Swiss, including an unforgettable victory in the 2008 Wimbledon final.

"People from outside our world talk about this, and that's good for our sport," said Nadal.

"The combination of two styles makes the matches really special," he added.

The head-to-head history also favours Nadal by six wins to two in Grand Slam finals and three to zero at the Australian Open. But the 14-time Major winner says that Sunday's final meeting will take their rivalry into new territory.

"That was a long time ago. It is a different match, a different moment for both of us. This match is completely different than what happened before," Nadal added.

"I really don't think about what happened in the past. I think the player who plays better is going to be the winner."

Comebacks to the future

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the opening of the latter's tennis academy in Majorca in October

Both Nadal and Federer ended their 2016 seasons early after suffering injuries.

A knee problem kept Federer out of action in the wake of his Wimbledon semi-final defeat by Milos Raonic, while Nadal was sidelined by a wrist injury that forced his withdrawal from the French Open.

Federer travelled to Nadal's home town of Manacor in Majorca for the opening of his rival's tennis academy in October.

"That was amazing. I have said hundreds of time, but I can't stop saying thanks because it was very emotional for everybody," recalled Nadal.

"In that moment, for sure, we never thought that we have the chance to be in a final again."

Recovery plans

On Friday the Spaniard beat Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 in almost five hours to reach a first Grand Slam final since 2014.

While Federer was also extended over five sets in his semi-final, the Swiss will have had an extra day to recover from his win over countryman Stan Wawrinka.

Nadal was in a similar situation in 2009 when he recovered from a gruelling five-hour win over Fernando Verdasco in the last four to beat Federer in the final in Melbourne.

"That is what I am going to try. I did it in 2009, but I am eight years older," Nadal said.

"It is true that if you play a match like I had today, probably you are at a disadvantage. But that's a special situation. I cannot complain about that. I think it is good.

"But now is not the time to talk about that. It is time to be happy, very happy."

Dimitrov taking positives

Grigor Dimitrov
Grigor Dimitrov was in his second Grand Slam semi-final, after losing to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2014

Under the guidance of Andy Murray's former coach Dani Vallverdu, Dimitrov has risen to number 15 in the world from 40th in July.

Having pushed Nadal all the way, he believes his Australian Open campaign is a strong base to build his season on.

"It's never easy to lose a match like that. I'm happy, though, with a lot of things. I'm going to stay positive and keep my head up high.

"I'm competing great. Physically I'm getting there. Despite the disappointment, that's going to feed me, I think, for the upcoming events."

While refusing to predict the result, the Bulgarian said that Sunday's final would be a "freakin' amazing" match.


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