SPORTS

Rafael Nadal sets up Roger Federer Australian Open final with epic win over Grigor Dimitrov

Rafael Nadal will square off with Roger Federer in the Australian Open final after the Spanish player defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 on Friday.

It will be the ninth time that Nadal and Federer will play for a Grand Slam title, with Nadal winning six of the previous eight finals meetings. They have not met for a major championship since the 2011 French Open, when Nadal won his sixth of nine titles at Roland Garros.

The ninth-seeded Nadal fought off two break points in the eighth game of the fifth set then hit a backhand winner down the line to break No. 15 Dimitrov in the next game and take a 5-4 lead. Nadal closed out the victory in the following game on his third match point to win in 4 hours, 56 minutes.

“Grigor was playing unbelievable. It was a great match. I feel very happy to be part of it. I enjoyed it a lot,” Nadal said. “To qualify for the final in a match like this means a lot to me.”

Nadal cruised in a 35-minute first set before Dimitrov evened the match in the second. Nadal won a third set that featured two service breaks, and he never trailed in the tiebreaker. There were no break-point chances in the fourth set.

Nadal improved his record in Grand Slam semifinals to an impressive 21-3 and advanced to his fourth Australian Open final. He has won the title at Melbourne Park once, in 2009.

Dimitrov had been aiming to reach his first Grand Slam final.

Nadal has a 23-11 head-to-head record against Federer, who hasn’t beaten Nadal in a major final since Wimbledon in 2007.