Vineet Sharma/Zeenews Sports
Melbourne: Serving for the match in the fourth set, Rafael Nadal held his nerves against Roger Federer and advanced to the final of the Australian Open 2012.
Nadal won 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-4 against an opponent that brings his best game out. The effort with which he came back after losing the first set was simply out of the world.
Federer, dogged by unforced errors and that iota of lesser energy, was the vanquished of the day.
First Set: Federer 7 - Nadal 6
It was a see-saw of fortunes in the first set as it went into a tie-breaker with the best in business putting their game to the test. Federer was on target from the first serve, holding on to his serve for the first win of the battle that would decide the fate of the semi-final at the Rod Laver Arena.
However, Nadal fought back with double fisted backhands in return to Federer’s majestic shots but the latter was simply on the top of his game in the initial burst, winning the first 3 games of the first set.
Nadal finally hit back in the fourth run, getting his first win of the night. Federer however, was in no mood to shift momentum as he won a couple of tough volleys to kept the drift in his step. Rafa covered some ground up with a winner immediately and the crowd was surely getting their money’s worth.
After being neck to neck at 4-4 in the first set, Federer claimed the next one in style, serving an ace to go 5-4 up. Keeping in tune with the fable of their encounters, Nadal didn’t give anything to Roger in the next duel, going 5-5 again as the first set itself served some intense action.
It was Federer who took the lead winning the first set after some really close calls while Nadal looked to fine-tune his game to the maximum.
Second Set: Federer 2- Nadal 6
Rafael Nadal took the lead for the first time in the match when he led Federer 3-2 in the second set, powered with some solid backhands and wily sliders. At a point of time, Nadal played an unbelievable pass from the far corner of the court after he had to run there at lightning speed from the other.
Making a strong comeback in the match, Nadal kept on winning in the set with superb serves and won the second set in 44 minutes with three set points to spare.
Third Set: Nadal 7 - Federer 6
TIE-BREAKER again! The battle was raised to another level in the third set as both Federer and Nadal went full steam to pocket the crucial set. Nadal was characteristically more aggressive than his opponent as he took the lead, spurred by a cheering crowd.
Nadal was on the mark, not conceding even a single double fault while Federer had four to his name. The two went neck to neck in a set that saw both the legends churning out a sublime brand of tennis where one was as remarkable as the other.
Besotted with unforced errors, Federer caved-in to Rafa’s power and with the 2-set lead in the match, it was an intense atmosphere going into the fourth set.
Fourth Set: Nadal 6 – Federer 4
It all was happening in the fourth set as Federer made a gritty comeback with some magnetic winners while Nadal did whatever he could to seal the fate of the match in the set itself and not grind it out for an excruciating fifth.
Rafa held his nerve as he served for the match and finally, emerged victorious on a night that saw one of the most watched sports rivalries of the world prove just why it was so.
Nadal now faces the winner of the Andy Murray – Novak Djokovic semi-final on Sunday.