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Tennis
Rafael Nadal through to Aussie Open final
Roger Federer is brushed aside as Rafael Nadal progresses to the final while Maria Sharapova faces Victoria Azarenka.
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2012 12:26
Victorious and 'very, very happy' Nadal will either play Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic in the final [GALLO/GETTY]

With queries over his form, fitness and motivation dogging him in the runup to the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal did not dream he would make the final.

After a thrilling 6-7 6-2, 7-6 6-4 win over his great rival Roger Federer at a tension-charged Rod Laver arena on Thursday the Spaniard credited his ability to defy the "impossible" for reaching a fourth consecutive final.

"I think he started playing aggressive, very, very high level at the beginning of the match," Nadal told reporters after
defeating the Swiss maestro.

"It's one of the victories that's gonna stay in my mind forever, no?"

Rafael Nadal 

"Always you can do a little bit more, no? But I really felt that when he plays like this, it's almost impossible to rise there to that level.

"I was very happy about my result on these two weeks. I did much better than what I thought, what I dreamed for three weeks ago.

"It's a fantastic victory for me. (I'm) very, very happy playing against the greatest (player) of the history in semi-finals, (at a) big match on Rod Laver.

"It's one of the victories that's gonna stay in my mind forever, no?"

Nadal extended his winning record over Federer to 18-9 and his record in grand slams over the Swiss to 8-2. He will bid for an 11th grand slam title against either Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic, who contest the other semi-final on Friday.

The women's final has already been set: Maria Sharapova overcame Petra Kvitova in the afternoon match and will play Victoria Azarenka for the championship.

Sharapova broke Kvitova's serve in the last game to finish off a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 victory and the third-seeded Azarenka beat defending champion Kim Clijsters 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 to set up a Saturday night final at Rod Laver Arena that will decide the No. 1 ranking.

Hard game on hardcourt

Britain's world number four Andy Murray is acutely aware of the damage Novak Djokovic can inflict on the blue hardcourts at Melbourne Park.

Last year, the Scot entered his second successive Australian Open final hoping to become the first British man to win a grand slam title since 1936 on what is considered his favourite surface.

Instead the Serb wiped him off the court in straight sets, then used the victory to kick-start his impressive 2011 when he won three grand slam titles and compiled a 70-6 record.

     Murray can use the match to gauge how much he has improved [GALLO/GETTY] 

"After the year that he had, the loss didn't look so bad six months later," Murray said ahead of Friday's Australian Open semi-final. 

"I've always liked playing against him...and it would be a good marker to see how I've improved since last year."

Djokovic had troubles with his breathing and felt his hamstring during his tough four-set quarter-final victory over
David Ferrer, although he dismissed any fitness concerns heading into the semi-finals.

The pair have played each other eight times on hardcourts with a 4-4 record. Djokovic holds an overall 6-4 record against the world number four.

"He's definitely very motivated to win his first grand slam," Djokovoic said.

"He's been playing last two years' finals here. He's been proving to himself and to the rest of the people that the Australian Open is probably his best grand slam.

"But on the other hand I have been playing quite well here in the last couple of years.

"We have to expect a great match. I hope that I can step out on the court trying to repeat the same thing I did last year, but it's definitely going to take a lot of effort to be a winner."

Source:
Agencies
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