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Friday, 27 January 2017 16:18 PM GMT
Australian Open Day 12: Nadal sets final date with Federer rounds up the action fron Day 12 at the 2017 Australian Open. READ MORE

The dream final is set. Rafael Nadal will take on Roger Federer in the men’s final at the Australian Open after an epic battle with Grigor Dimitrov. It will be their 35th meeting but their first Grand Slam final meeting since the 2011 French Open. Here’s how he managed it.

Back in the big time

It was an epic, brutal battle, one that lasted well into the early hours. After four hours, 56 minutes of tension-filled drama, punctuated with extended periods of brilliance from both players, Nadal came out on top 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, falling to the ground as Dimitrov’s final backhand flew long. 

“I am very, very happy,” an exhausted Nadal said. “It was a fantastic match, very emotional. I think Grigor played great. I played great. So was a great quality of tennis tonight. For me, it is amazing to be through to a final of grand slam again here in Australia at the first month of the year.

"It means a lot to me. I think both of us deserve to be in that final. It was a great fight. Finally was me. I feel lucky. I am very happy for that.”

For Nadal, who missed the end of last year to rest his injured wrist – the same injury that caused him to withdraw during the French Open and miss Wimbledon – it was a remarkable victory, one that brought back memories of his triumph over Fernando Verdasco at the same stage in 2009.

It is his first Grand Slam final since the 2014 French Open but he now has the chance to win Grand Slam title No.15, which would put him within two of Federer.

Dimitrov had been mightily impressive throughout the fortnight as he reached only his second grand slam semi-final. Nadal came out firing on all cylinders as he romped through the first set but the 25-year-old Dimitrov hit back brilliantly, taking the attack to Nadal and snatching the second set.

Nadal hit back to edge the third on a tiebreak but Dimitrov matched him in the fourth, which set up a pulsating final set in which both men had chances to get an early break.

In the end, as he has done so many times in his career, it was Nadal who forced the break, a heavily-hit forehand pass setting up a simple backhand for a winner and then he served out for victory, though he needed three match points to get over the line.

Now he’ll need to get himself enough rest to take on Federer on Sunday, their 22nd meeting in finals and a crucial meeting in terms of the overall grand slam list. As Andy Roddick mentioned this week when popping in to discuss his impending induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, this could be the biggest ever match between the two.

“If you think about the historical significance, one at 14 slams, one at 17 slams, Rafa wins, it's 15-17, and the French Open is around the corner, it's back on,” he said.

“It's literally game on for the most slams ever. If Roger wins, it's 18-14. I don't know that that divide gets made up.”

For Dimitrov it was a bitter pill to swallow but he was proud of his efforts over the two weeks, a fortnight in which he has announced himself as a genuine title contender.

“One thing I can say is that I left it all out on the court,” he said. “I'm proud of that. I'm proud of my team. Proud of my coach. Everyone that has taken care of me that month, it's been super intense. We can relax for a little bit now and get back to work.”

Doubles joy
American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Czech Lucie Safarova took the women’s doubles title for the second time as they came from behind to beat Shuai Peng of China and Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic 6-7, 6-3, 6-3. Champions here in 2015, the pair combined for their fourth slam title together.

“We were celebrating like five-year-old kids out there,” Mattek-Sands said. “It still feels amazing to win it. It's a grand slam. When we got the trophy, we saw our names written on it. We know we get it written on there again. It's just special. We played a lot of great teams to get to the finals. We're going to make sure we enjoy this moment for a little bit.”

Full set for Reid

Scotland’s Gordon Reid, the Wimbledon wheelchair champion, completed a career doubles grand slam as he and Joachim Gerard of Belgium beat Alfie Hewett and Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina 6-3, 3-6, 10-3 to win the title.

Dance of the day

New category, especially for Mattek-Sands and Safarova, who broke into a dance after their doubles win.

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