MELBOURNE, Australia — It was killing Roger Federer the last time he played Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open. Now after a day and night when both champions were in classic form, Federer will get his rematch. This meeting, their 27th, will come in the semifinals instead of the final. Novak Djokovic is now the game’s No. 1 player with Nadal ranked second and Federer third. But Nadal-Federer remains one of the best rivalries in sports even if Nadal has created a significant gap by winning 17 of their previous matches, including the last four at Grand Slam events.After health scares in the buildup to the first major tournament this year — the back for Federer, a shoulder and a knee for Nadal — both radiated vitality at Rod Laver Arena.Laver, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his winning all four Grand Slam events in 1962, picked a fine if torrid day to have a front-row seat. Federer was the Federer of the mind’s eye in his 1,000th tour-level match, free-flowing and imperious as he carved up the serious threat posed by Juan Martín del Potro to win their quarterfinal, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.Nadal, true to his image, had to dig deeper. Sweat coated his legs and clung to his dark hair as he conjured spectacular running forehands, cast sideways glances in the direction of his uncle and coach, Toni Nadal, and eventually whipped and willed his way past Tomas Berdych, who is developing a harder edge at 26.Federer required 1 hour 59 minutes to win his match against del Potro. Nadal and Berdych required 2:26 just to split sets, with Berdych winning the first tiebreaker and Nadal wresting the second after Berdych failed to make a forehand volley that might have changed his luck after nine straight losses to the Spaniard.On they scrapped in the match of the tournament so far. In the end, Nadal’s increased ability to attack the seventh-seeded Berdych’s serve and to turn defense into offense in a heartbeat made the difference as he won, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-3, in 4:16.“The level is very positive, much, much better than the end of the season,” Nadal said. “The character on the court, the way to win the points. Everything was much more positive. So I’m very happy.”Federer was not happy the last time he faced Nadal here. He lost the 2009 final in five sets, muttering, “God, it’s killing me,” in the award ceremony and breaking down in tears with Nadal putting an arm around him.“I’d like to get a chance to play him again here,” Federer said, speaking before Nadal’s latest Melbourne marathon was done.
Please note that this article comes from the NY times