Dream final that little bit closer after Nadal win
TENNIS: Retro continues to be in vogue at this year's Australian Open.
Spanish bull Rafael Nadal might bristle at talk he is yesterday's man returning to glory, but his progression to the semi-finals is his first in a grand slam since winning the 2014 French Open.
The 30-year-old advanced with a 6-4 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 beating of Canadian world No.3 Milos Raonic, one of the young breed that has overtaken him in the rankings, if not quite on court.
With the win, Nadal edged closer to a potential Australian Open final against old nemesis Roger Federer, a match eagerly anticipated around the world.
There were 46 men aged 30 or older who started in the men's draw and three occupy the four semi-final spots - the other going to Grigor Dimitrov, a 25-year-old enjoying a renaissance.
It is the same on the women's side, with the Williams sisters and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni all 34 or older.
Nadal's celebratory roar after sealing his passage to the final four was meaningful and raw, following a season spoiled by a left wrist injury.
"I am not a very arrogant person, so I always have doubts ... even when I was winning a lot I had doubts - you can imagine (when) I haven't won and I have injuries,” Nadal said.
"But that is good, I think, because when you have doubts you feel ready to work more. You know how tough all the victories are and I think I had a great career.
"At the same time, I had a lot of tough moments, so (it) makes me enjoy even more the good moments that I am having today, especially here. Unbelievable.”
Dimitrov, who won the Brisbane title a fortnight ago and impressively dispatched David Goffin earlier in the day, is Nadal's next hurdle.
Ninth-ranked Nadal boasts a 7-1 lead against him, including a four-set victory in the 2014 Australian Open quarter-finals.
"Grigor is a great player. I think everybody thought that he (was) going to be a very top, top player before (now) and finally he started the season unbelievable,” Nadal said.
"He is playing so, so good, so just (I) congratulate him, because I know last year was a tough year for him. When you are coming back strong, that gives you even more power.”
Nadal dropped five points in as many opening-set service games and blunted Raonic's famed first delivery, which routinely touched 220km/h, to the degree he barely won 60 per cent of those points.
The small matter of 12 Nadal winners and just two unforced errors were significant factors, too.
But the second set is where the meticulous Raonic will pour most of his post-match energy, having the only break points - four of them - and six set points to Nadal's one.
There was tentativeness (the backhand 'push' in the 12th game that went wide), routine misses (the ballooned forehand on Nadal's set point) and the double fault at 6-5 in the tiebreak.
He also had an off-court medical timeout for his recurring right adductor problem that left him writhing in pain on occasion.
The third set had a sense of inevitability as Nadal bided his time then pounced to break Raonic to love in the 10th game and sail through in 2hr 44min.
"There were some opportunities in that second set. Other than that, there wasn't much for me to hold onto,” Raonic said.
"I thought he took the match to me ... he played better than I did.”
Raonic, a semi-finalist last year, will slide at least one ranking position to fourth behind Stan Wawrinka.