x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Rafael Nadal sets up clash with Roger Federer in Melbourne

Spaniard sees off Berdych at Australian Open, Federer makes light work of Juan Martin del Potro while Kim Clijsters knocks Caroline Wozniacki off top spot.

Roger Federer hits a backhand in his quarter-final match against Juan Martin Del Potro.
Roger Federer hits a backhand in his quarter-final match against Juan Martin Del Potro.

MELBOURNE // A dominating win by Roger Federer in his 1,000th career match and a more difficult workout for Rafael Nadal set up a rare Grand Slam marquee semifinal between the former top-ranked players.

Four-time Australian Open champion Federer advanced to his ninth straight semi-final at Melbourne Park with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 quarter-final win over Juan Martin del Potro, the man who beat him to claim the US Open title in 2009.

Federer's 1,000th match was similar to most in his career – no-nonsense, dominating from the start and some incredible shots.

"It's a lot of matches and a lot tennis," said Federer, a record 16-time Grand Slam champion. "Either I have been around for a long time or I'm extremely fit. You decide which way you want to describe it. But I'm happy."

In an often tempestuous night match at Rod Laver Arena, Nadal advanced with a tough 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-3 win over Tomas Berdych.

"Happy with how I finished match physically, I was able to keep running with high intensity," Nadal said.

Federer and Nadal – they were ranked one and two for many years – have been on opposite halves of the draw since the 2005 French Open. That was the last time the pair met in a Grand Slam semi-final, won that year by Nadal in four sets.

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Champion Kim Clijsters ended Caroline Wozniacki's Australian Open title hopes and her hold on the world's top ranking on Tuesday when she beat the 21-year-old 6-3 7-6 to advance to a semi-final against Victoria Azarenka.

The Dane had needed to reach the semi-finals at Melbourne Park to have a chance of retaining the No 1 one ranking, and is now projected by the WTA to slip to at least No 3 at the conclusion of the tournament.

Wozniacki had been world No 1 since October 11, 2010, though she lost it to Clijsters for one week last February, before reclaiming it again on February 21.

She had held top spot for a total of 67 weeks but found herself having its validity questioned, most recently by 18-times grand slam winner Martina Navratilova, because she had not won any of the four grand slam titles.

World No 2 Petra Kvitova, No 3 Azarenka and No 4 Maria Sharapova all have a chance of taking the top ranking, depending on how they finish the tournament.

Wozniacki had lost her two previous meetings with Clijsters, in the 2009 U.S. Open final and the 2010 WTA Championships and once again found the four-times grand slam winner in rampant form, unable to match the Belgian's power and precision. Wozniacki had looked down and out at 5-2 in the second set but drew on all of her reserves to fight back and take it to a tiebreak.

The comeback, however, only served to delay the inevitable as the Belgian took the decider 7-4, sealing victory on her first match point with a forehand volley.

"It definitely didn't feel like being up a set and 5-2," Clijsters said in a courtside interview. "I had to work really hard for it. I think she changed up her tactics a little bit and became a little more aggressive ... I was happy to get through and not go to a three-setter because it's so hot."

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Azarenka roared back from a set down to beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-7 6-0 6-2 and reach the semi-finals where she will face Clijsters.

"I think I am a different player right now, especially mentally-wise," Azarenka told reporters in the post-match news conference. "Today I really tried to forget about the first set and start from zero and really fight hard. I think that's the toughest thing out there. Especially when the weather is tough. Your mind is boiling and it's difficult to think. Plus you have somebody on the opposite side that is making you a little bit crazy and you have to keep it together."

sports@thenational.ae