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Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer won yesterday at the Australian Open to set up their first semifinal meeting at a Grand Slam tennis tournament in seven years.
Nadal, the No. 2 seed from Spain, got past Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, 6-3 while Federer beat No. 11 seed Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina 6-4, 6-3, 6- 2 to reach the semifinals in Melbourne for a record-extending ninth straight year.
Nadal is in his first Australia Open semifinal since 2009, when the 10-time major winner took the title with a five-set victory over Federer. The Spaniard has won 17 of the 26 times the pair have met, although Federer won their last meeting in December on the hard courts of the ATP World Tour finals in London. The Swiss player ended 2011 with a 17-match win streak.
“He’s playing fantastic and he had a fantastic end of the season last year, so he’s coming with confidence,” Nadal told reporters. “It will be a very, very difficult match for me. Even if I lose, I come back home with very positive feeling.”
Women’s defending champion Kim Clijsters of Belgium and third-seeded Belarusian Victoria Azarenka advanced to a semifinal meeting. In today’s men’s quarterfinals, top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia takes on Spain’s David Ferrer while No. 4 Andy Murray of Britain takes on Japan’s Kei Nishikori. Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic meets Italian Sara Errani and Ekaterina Makarova takes on fellow Russian Maria Sharapova for places in the women’s last four.
Nadal missed months of the last two seasons with injuries, and lost his top ranking to Djokovic. The 25-year-old Spaniard beat Federer in their first 3 meetings last year, including in the French Open final. Federer, 30, has won 5 of their 9 hard court matches.
For the first time since the 2005 French Open, Federer and Nadal are on the same side of the draw at a Grand Slam, meaning only one of them can reach the Jan. 29 final.
“I’d like to play Rafa because of our great epic match earlier in the finals here a few years ago,” Federer said before Nadal’s win. “I’d like to get a chance to play him again here. It’s been a long time.”
Nadal needed 4 hours and 16 minutes to defeat No. 7 seed Berdych, two hours more than Federer. Nadal’s match finished at midnight local time.
Berdych took the opening set in 75 minutes after Nadal had saved four set points to take it to a tiebreaker. The Czech bought up his fifth set point with a forehand that Nadal wasn’t allowed to challenge because the chair umpire said he’d waited too long and then wrapped up the tiebreaker with an ace.
The second set went to another tiebreaker, which Berdych was one point away from winning when he put a volley wide. Nadal took the next two points to pull even and recovered from 0-2 down in the third set, which he secured with an overhead volley that prompted him a loud roar of celebration.
After the first set, Nadal started to move in closer during Berdych’s serve.
“I was trying to find a solution because I felt in the first two sets I didn’t have a lot of chances to play a lot of points when he was serving,” Nadal said.
Federer, who has won a men’s record 16 Grand Slam singles titles, fired 38 winners in his victory.
Federer took the first set with his second break of service when Del Potro double-faulted on set point, and broke again in the fourth game of the second set with a half-volleyed backhand winner down the line. He saved four break points when trying to serve out the set before holding for a two-set lead.
Federer went 2-0 up in the third set and manufactured his fifth service break to earn the right to serve for a semifinal spot, converting on his first match point with a backhand winner.
Clijsters earlier knocked Caroline Wozniacki out of the WTA’s No. 1 ranking by beating the Dane 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).
Clijsters, who saved four match points and overcame an ankle injury against Li Na of China in the previous round, overpowered Wozniacki to extend her record in quarterfinals at Melbourne Park to 7-0. She hit 39 winners, three times as many as her opponent, as the temperature reached 35 degrees (95 degrees Fahrenheit).
Clijsters is seeking her fifth major title to start what she has said probably will be her final season on the tour.
Wozniacki’s loss means she’ll lose the No. 1 ranking, with Azarenka, Maria Sharapova of Russia and Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic all having a chance to take the top spot.
“We are just in January,” Wozniacki said. “In the end of the year you see who has played the best, most consistently all year round. I will get it back eventually.”
Azarenka earlier fought back to beat No. 8 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-7 (0-7), 6-0, 6-2 and reach the final four of a major for the second time after Wimbledon last year.
“It was very important to see how I could adjust after not playing really well in the first set,” Azarenka said after lifting her winning streak in 2012 to 10 matches. “I completely turned it around.”
--Editor: Christopher Elser, Bob Bensch
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