Rafael Nadal next up for Roger Federer
MELBOURNE, Australia -- A dominating win by Roger Federer in his 1,000th career match and a more difficult workout for Rafael Nadal set up a rare Grand Slam marquee semifinal between the former top-ranked players.
Four-time Australian Open champion Federer advanced to his ninth straight semifinal at Melbourne Park with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 quarterfinal win Tuesday over Juan Martin del Potro, the man who beat him for the U.S. Open title in 2009.
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Federer's 1,000th match was similar to most in his career -- no-nonsense, dominating from the start, and with some incredible shots.
"It's a lot of matches and a lot of tennis," said Federer, a record 16-time Grand Slam champion. "Either I have been around for a long time or I'm extremely fit. You decide which way you want to describe it. But I'm happy."
In an often tempestuous night match at Rod Laver Arena, Nadal advanced with a tough 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-3 win over Tomas Berdych.
"Happy with how I finished the match physically. I was able to keep running with high intensity," Nadal said.
Federer and Nadal -- they were ranked 1-2 for many years -- have been on opposite halves of the draw since the 2005 French Open. That was the last time the pair met in a Grand Slam semifinal, won that year by Nadal in four sets.
Nadal saved four set points in the first set, including one on an amazing cross-court passing shot on the 29th point of a rally. But Berdych held firm to win the ensuing tiebreaker.
During the tiebreaker, a Berdych shot landed out, and Nadal returned it, then challenged the call. Chair umpire Carlos Bernardes wouldn't allow the challenge because Nadal hadn't immediately stopped play, but Nadal responded by saying he didn't challenge immediately because he thought the linesman had called it out.
The replay showed the ball was out.
"Carlos, I'll tell you something, you never get one right, not one correct overrule," Nadal said in Spanish. "You're not here as a spectator. You know that ball was out."
Bernardes later had a brief discussion with Berdych when the Czech player complained about an apparent "flat" ball. And in the fourth set, Nadal chastised the chair umpire again for allowing a challenge by Berdych, believing the Czech player waited too long before asking for a review.
In the opening game of the fourth set, Nadal hit consecutive down-the-line forehands to break Berdych's service and the Spaniard was on his way to clinching the match in 4 hours, 16 minutes.
Federer's career can be enhanced even more if he wins the title this year at Melbourne Park. With a 232-34 record in Grand Slam singles matches, he can overtake Jimmy Connors' mark of 233 wins if he collects the title here.
Del Potro, who has recovered from the right wrist injury that sidelined him for most of 2010, played well in flashes. But Federer was at another level, hitting lobs, drop shots, cross-court winners and generally negating del Potro's big forehand.
"We have played some big matches against each other, so just knowing how well he's been playing as of late, I was just hoping that I would get off (to) a good start," Federer said. "I was able to mix it up well and control the ball, and right away sort of felt confident."
The end of the match came in a most fitting way, one of Federer's backhand winners.
Before that, Federer saved his fourth break point at 5-3 in the second set after a long rally. He let out a loud yell, unusual for a player not prone to big shows of emotion.
"That's why I didn't celebrate when I won the set, just to make it up," Federer said, smiling. "I really knew how important that game was for me."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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