The Australian Open has got at least one of the men's singles semi final they clamoured for with number two seed Rafael Nadal winning through his quarter final against Tomas Berdych
to face his one time nemesis, the third seed, Roger Federer.
The two players, who without doubt are two of the greatest players to have ever adorned the game, will be meeting for the 27th time as professionals but rather dauntingly for Federer, it is Nadal who leads the head to head count with 17 wins to Federer 's nine. However, statistics should mean nothing at all, particularly on hard courts on which Federer has the slightly better record winning five of those while losing four. He also defeated Nadal 6-3, 6-0 the last time the two met on a hard court in the round robin stage at ATP World Tour Finals in London just over two months ago.
This semi final is a repeat of the classic final the two played out in 2009 on the Rod Laver Court which Nadal won in five pulsating sets. It was a win that proved the coming of age of Nadal on hard court as it was the first ‘Grand Slam’ he had ever won on the surface. It was also a win that reduced Federer to tears at the closing ceremony and it was from that time that he became universally regarded as the better player of the two.
Notwithstanding, Federer has shown in the last 12 months, more or less from the time he was being written off, a remarkable return to top form and although a 17th ‘Grand Slam’ title eluded him in 2010 he is without doubt more than capable of winning one this year. His performances at Melbourne Park this year have been nothing short of imperious; he is yet to drop a set and has overcome a niggling back injury that hampered his preparation work for the tournament.
Federer will see this semi final as the perfect opportunity to confirm his self belief and he will come into the match full of confidence against a Nadal, who, whilst seemingly getting back to his best, is yet to peak. Nadal looked vulnerable for a long time in his quarter final against Berdych and needed to find his best form to overcome the determined Czech in four sets.
Prior to Nadal’s victory, Federer produced a master class to destroy the hopes of Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro in three straight sets avenging in the process his defeat at the hands of the Argentine in the final of the 2009 US Open. Should Federer reproduce the form that he showed in that match, then Nadal will struggle to stay with him. However anything less from Federer then it could be he that is the more vulnerable of the two. They last met in a Grand Slam event last year in the final at Roland Garros which Nadal won in four sets. The Spaniard of course went on to lose to the now world number one, Novak Djokovic in the finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open.
Without doubt, this is going to be a very close game to but interestingly, the Bookmakers make Federer the 4/6 favourite with Sportingbet
, while quoting Nadal at 11/8 against but whether the Swiss will justify that confidence remains to be seen and it would come as no surprise to see Nadal progress to the final.