Nadal wins to set up dream Australian Open final versus Roger Federer

Rafael Nadal56Melbourne: Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal set up a dream Australian Open final with his long-time rival Swiss legend Roger Federer, defeating Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-7(4) 6-4 in the semi-finals of the Australian Open here on Friday.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion will play Federer in a Grand Slam final for the ninth time, after the 17-time Grand Slam champion beat 2014 Melbourne Park winner Stan Wawrinka in five sets on Thursday night.

Nadal, the 2009 champion, seeded ninth, leads Federer 23-11 in their head-to-head rivalry, and has won their past three meetings in Melbourne, at the semi-final stage in 2012 and 2014 and in the 2009 final, reports

In Grand Slam finals, Nadal holds a 6-2 lead over his rival, winning their past four meetings in major tournament deciders.

Friday night's victory over Dimitrov was Nadal's eighth in nine career meetings with the Bulgarian, who played in a major semi-final for the second time after first reaching the final four at Wimbledon in 2014.

It was an emotional victory for the 30-year-old Nadal, who is through to his first Grand Slam final since winning the 2014 French Open crown -- his 14th major triumph.

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The Spaniard withstood an initial barrage from Dimitrov, who held two break point chances in a lengthy opening game. But after holding serve, Nadal raced to a 4-1 advantage, breaking Dimitrov in the fourth game by picking the Bulgarian off at the net.

He afforded Dimitrov no opportunity to break back, despite the Bulgarian raising his level as the set progressed, and sealed the opener in 35 minutes with a forehand volley winner.

The two could not be separated until Dimitrov's shot landed long after a four hour 56-minute slugfest.