Sharapova avenges her loss to Kvitova while Azarenka awaits the Russian in Australian Open final.
Rafael Nadal overcomes Roger Federer threat to reach final
Federer came out firing but Nadal gradually wore him down to clinch a 6-7 (5/7) 6-2 7-6 (7/5) 6-4 win in three hours and 42 minutes and secure his place in Sunday night's title decider against Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray.
Federer versus Nadal remains one of sport's great rivalries and this was another classic - both players slugging it out until Nadal broke crucially for a 5-4 fourth-set lead before serving it out.
Maria Sharapova has avenged her Wimbledon loss to Petra Kvitova and returned to the Australian Open final for the first time since winning the last of her three major titles here in 2008.
Sharapova broke Kvitova's serve in the last game to finish off a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 victory and set up a championship match against Victoria Azarenka. The third-seeded Belarusian beat defending champion Kim Clijsters to reach her first Grand Slam final.
The winner of Saturday's final also will gain the No 1 ranking.
Sharapova lost to second-ranked Kvitova in the Wimbledon final last year and was struggling to hold her serve against the 21-year-old Czech lefthander in the third set, when she served five double-faults.
"In the third set, I felt she always had the advantage because I was always down on my serve," said Sharapova, who won her first major at Wimbledon in 2004. "I just told myself, 'You just gotta go for it, don't let her finish off the points like she likes to."'
Kvitova had won their previous two matches, but let herself down with 41 unforced errors as she tried to unsettle Sharapova with her powerful groundstrokes.
Azarenka won the other semi-final 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, twice recovering from periods when a resurgent Clijsters seemed to have the upper hand. She broke the veteran Belgian's serve three times in the third set to secure victory in only her second appearance in a major semi-final.
After a strong start, Azarenka's serve deserted her in the second set and Clijsters dictated play with her solid groundstrokes and some amazing defence.
But after getting the momentum back, it was Clijsters who blinked first in the third set, dropping serve in the second game and again in the fourth.
The 22-year-old Belarusian said: "I felt like my hand is about 200 kilograms and my body is about 1,000 and everything is shaking, but that feeling when you finally win is such a relief. My God I cannot believe it's over. I just want to cry."
Clijsters is a popular player in Australia, where she is widely known as "Aussie Kim".
"I guess before you all thought I was a mental case. I was just young and emotional," Azarenka said in a courtside interview. "I'm really glad the way I fight, that's the most thing I'm really proud of. I fight for every ball."
Clijsters credited Azarenka with increasing maturity. "The match was very close. There were a few deciding moments where I think I maybe had a little bit of an advantage, in the third set, especially that first game where I had break point," Clijsters said. "But, you know, she definitely played really well. She was playing very aggressive tennis, moving really well. So she deserved to win at the end."
TOMIC CHARGED FOR SPEEDING
Police issued two traffic tickets to Bernard Tomic after waiting outside his home while he spoke to a lawyer in the latest episode of a feud between the teenage Wimbledon quarter-finalist andlocal officers.
Australian media reported that officers tried to pull over Tomic, who did not stop but drove his BMW sports car back to his home at Southport on Australia's Gold Coast.
Two officers went inside the house to speak to Tomic, who then sought legal representation, saying he wanted to make a complaint against police. The 19 year old, who reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and had got special permission on his license to drive the car, had previously complained about perceived persecution by local police.