A ruthless Rafa Nadal crushed his great rival Roger Federer 7-6(4) 6-3 6-3 on Friday in an awesome display of raw power and precision to reach his third Australian Open final.
On a breezy night at Rod Laver Arena, the 2009 champion notched his sixth straight win in grand slams over the Swiss, stunning his opponent with a masterclass of clean hitting to book a title-decider with Stanislas Wawrinka.
Dominating Federer in the first set tiebreak, the Spaniard broke twice to charge through the second, and captured the decisive break in the third at 3-3 when his opponent blasted into the net-cord and the deflection sailed long.
Hitting winners from all corners, Nadal raised two match-points as Federer served to stay in the match and sealed it on the second when the shell-shocked Swiss shanked a forehand long.
Nadal punched his left fist into the night sky and roared in triumph while a demoralised Federer gave a cursory wave before trudging to the exit.
“I think tonight I played my best match of the tournament, so I’m very happy for that,” top seed Nadal, who missed last year’s tournament through illness, said in a courtside interview.
“After missing last year, for me it’s really emotional to be back on this court, in Rod Laver.
“I never thought about having 14 (slams), the only thing I can swear is that I’m going to try my best,” the 13-times grand slam champion said of his prospects for the final.
The lop-sided result will re-fuel the debate as to the greatest player of all time, with Nadal extending his head-to-head dominance over Federer to 23-10, and thrashing him on a hardcourt, the most democratic of surfaces.
A runaway victory seemed an absurd notion early, as the pair parried and probed in the opening games.
Nadal was impenetrable on serve and demanded Federer meet him in a tiebreak where the Swiss promptly stumbled.
Throwing his opponent from side to side, the Spaniard played it completely on his terms, roaring to a 5-1 lead and closing the set out when Federer sent an increasingly shaky backhand sailing past the baseline.
Frustrated by Nadal’s stifling consistency, Federer was further agitated after the Spaniard left the court between sets and then had treatment on his blistered hand at the first change of ends.
Federer was forced to defend three break points at 2-1 and survived only by an inch shown up on the ‘Hawk-eye’ technology after a successful challenge on a line call.