It will be the best semi-final tennis fans could hope for: the two greatest tennis players of the century, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, will face off Wednesday night (3 a.m. Thursday Eastern, 8 a.m. GMT) to see who will advance into the Finals of the Australian Open tennis tournament. Who will win is less important than that fans will get to see them play.
Roger Federer has had an easy tournament so far; he reached the semi-finals by beating Juan Martin Del Potro as he had all his other opponents, in straight sets (except for a by in the second round.) Federer looked masterful in his easy win over Del Potro; the 30-year-old Federer is on his best form. His first set win against Del Potro was the Swiss player’s 2000th winning set as a professional, in 1000 matches.
Nadal had to fight past a tough Tomas Berdych in a four hour, sixteen minute match which saw Nadal start slow and get stronger while Berdych weakened in the final set. The first two sets went to tie-breaks, and even in the final set, Berdych was always close to taking control and taking it to five. Berdych won 147 points to Nadal’s 157.
Nadal showed no signs of the knee problem which almost sidelined him before the tournament even started; he moved well and hit well, 57 winners and only 30 errors. Berdych hit 66 winners to 56 errors; in the first two sets the towering Czech had Nadal chasing. Nadal’s confidence grew as the match progressed, but at no time was it easy for the 25-year-old Spaniard.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have faced off 26 times, with the Spanish player triumphing 17 times. If Nadal can start the match showing the form in which he finished against Berdych, this might be 18. If Nadal starts slowly, the match could go to Federer. At least both players get a day to rest; Nadal’s battle against Berdych won’t tip the scales.
Roger Federer is looking forward to match. Prior to the Nadal/Berdych contest, he told Australia’s TV7, “Obviously I’d like to play Rafa because of our great epic match earlier in the finals here a few years ago. I’d like to get a chance to play him again here. I’d love to play Rafa in the semis if it happens.”
Nadal and Federer are ranked two and three in the world, but rankings don’t matter. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have been the best players in tennis for so long that even after the amazing 2011 season of Novak Djokovich (ten tournaments including three Grand Slams for a 70–6 record) that the strapping top-ranked Serb still seems an upstart.The biggest names in tennis will meet Wednesday evening in a match certain to offer several moments of sublime grace, power, and skill. The final, most likely featuring Djokovic against one of these two, could seem almost an anti-climax.