Rafael Nadal beat out rival Roger Federer to reach the Australian Open final for the third time in what The New York Times describes as "a breezy 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-3 win" Friday in Melbourne. Nadal will face No. 8-seeded Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland for the title.
The Times writes:
"In the first set, Federer seemed to employ a different strategy than usual, and he approached the net at every opportunity. That set was close — 43 points for Nadal, 40 for Federer — but even then, Nadal exposed Federer's cracks. He nearly broke Federer's serve twice, and in the tie-break, he applied so much pressure that Federer missed six shots."
"That seemed to shift Federer's approach. He stopped attacking the net as often. He stayed back and tried to match Nadal with groundstrokes, which is rarely a good idea. Nadal received treatment early in that set for the blister on his left palm, but that seemed to bother him Friday about as much as Federer. On his eighth break point of the match, Nadal converted."
"The third set, then, played out like a formality, and when Federer's final shot of the tournament sailed long, Nadal did one of those sprint-fist pump combinations."
"In the 33rd meeting between the two best players over the last 10 years, Nadal pulled out a 59-minute first set and rolled from there to improve to 3-0 against Federer. ... As Rod Laver and Pete Sampras sat in the crowd, Nadal showed once again why his now 23-10 record against Federer is no fluke."
"Nadal is now second on the list of players reaching Grand Slam finals, joining Ivan Lendl on 19 — Federer leads the list with 24, but hasn't figured in a major final since winning Wimbledon in 2012. He hasn't beaten Nadal in a Grand Slam match since 2007, but after holding off Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in the quarterfinals, and with new coach Stefan Edberg helping fine-tune his game, Federer was more confident this time in an arena where he's won the title four times."
"He served and volleyed, he played with good touch, he played drop shots, he tried everything, but his 50 resulting unforced errors were double Nadal's 25."
"Nadal hit 13 of his 28 winners on his powerful left forehand, attacking Federer's one-handed backhand yet again."
The men's championship match is scheduled for Sunday. You can watch it on ESPN at 3:30 a.m. ET on ESPN and, for those who like to sleep in, at 9 a.m. on ESPN2.