MELBOURNE: A rejuvenated Roger Federer may get his best chance to end his Grand Slam torment against Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open with the top seed plagued by a blister on his hand.
The Swiss all-time Grand Slam champion has not beaten Nadal in five Slam encounters since his 2007 Wimbledon final triumph, in a period of dominance by the Spanish world number one.
But a combination of Federer’s resurgence under Swedish mentor Stefan Edberg, and Nadal’s blister-induced weakened serve, has thrown open the outcome of Friday’s blockbuster semifinals.
Nadal was clearly discomfited by the ugly blister in the palm of his serving hand as he spluttered with seven double-faults, two on break points, in his battling four-set win over Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals.
The 13-time Grand Slam champion, 27, complained that a lack of confidence in his weakened serve made him vulnerable against the rising Bulgarian star. “I served slower. I served bad. When you lose confidence with one important shot like the serve, then you are not able to play the rest of the shots with confidence,” said Nadal, who is on a 10-match winning run.
With the defeat of three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic on the other side of the men’s draw, and Federer’s four-set defeat of triple runner-up Andy Murray, only the Swiss great now stands in the way of a third Australian Open final appearance for Nadal.
Former world number one Federer, now ranked sixth, is trying to prolong his fabulous career and show he is still capable of winning an 18th Grand Slam title, with his last coming at Wimbledon 2012.
Federer last month hired six-time Grand Slam champion Stefan Edberg in an advisory coaching role.