Saturday, 28 January 2017

Nadal in final after match of the Open

Ninth seed Rafa Nadal from Spain and fifteenth seed Grigor Dimitrov from Bulgaria were the two combatants in the second men's semi final of the 2017 Aus Open to be played on the second Friday night.
Nadal had, in my opinion, displayed consistently the best tennis of the tournament to this point.  Milos Raonic was unable to raise his game once Rafa changed up a gear or two in their quarter final.  Alexander Zverev was unlucky to have had Nadal in his section of the draw because the level of tennis he exhibited was sufficient to have won against most others.

However, there is no doubt that Grigor Dimitrov presented a real danger.  Undefeated since setting foot on our shores, beating top credentialed opponents on the way to the Brisbane title, then knocking over five more here including Goffin and Gasquet in ruthless displays.

The two had played eight times with Nadal winning seven, but the last time was in Beijing in 2016 with Dimitrov successful in two sets.

Nadal served first.  Two early warm up errors from Rafa and 0-30.  Surprise speed on the forehand caused Dimitrov problems but the fifteenth seed unloaded on a backhand next to give himself two break points.  Both were saved.  Attacking the Dimitrov backhand was clearly a tactic and errors came towards the end of a long game.  Nadal 1-0.

A Grigor ace for 40-0 and another for 1-1.  Rafa enjoyed two off forehand winners which took him to 30-15 and was relieved when a Dimitrov passing shot ,issued the court.  A third off forehand crosscourt with more pace was deemed enough practice for that shot and the game was stopped. The Spaniard ahead 2-1.

A whipped backhand winner from Nadal upset Dimitrov and he contributed another error in response.  Two break points, and one saved.  Broken on the second and Rafa up 3-1.
Regular appointments with the net were proving expensive for Dimitrov and that coupled with aces from his opponent made it difficult for any concerted attack on the Spanish serve, which was held to love again. 4-1

Better news for Grigor with two forehand winners, one down each side.  A third forehand was the best of the three and 40-0 the result. A backhand to hold serve and 2-4.  A Nadal backhand forced an error again.  A great serve to the backhand and 40-0.  A third love game and 5-2.  

Dimitrov, just to stay alive in the set.   A sweet Dimitrov backhand winner and 40-0.  A backhand volley disaster thankfully came with three game points and the service hold was comfortable. 3-5.  Rafa served for the set.

A backhand out of court from Nadal and 0-15.  First point lost on his serve for the night.  Volley put away after pushing Dimitrov into the western suburbs.
Two set points after a return error.  Neat stop volley winner and the set was done 6-3.

Already an unforced forehand error in set two by Grigor and he was 0-15.  A high backhand volley was immeasurably better and the two forehand down the line winners a class even above that.  Dimitrov 1-0
A fantastic rally with Dimitrov running everywhere and retrieving everything before finally relenting with a mistake.  30-15.  Double fault from Nadal and 40-30.  Ultimately 1-1.

Grigor more purposeful on serve, working Nadal harder and forcing errors.  40-0 was brought back to a single game point before a textbook serve volley won the game and 2-1 Dimitrov.
A superb backhand from Grigor won the opening point on Nadal's next serve, and then a forehand forced a mistake from the Spanish racquet.  Three break points with another one wide.  A forehand wide and Nadal broken to love.  Grigor leading 3-1.

A beautiful lob/drop shot combo from Nadal and 15-15.  Dimitrov sent a backhand wide but served the next two well, an ace for 40-30.  The hold for 4-1.
The error count for Nadal had built steadily, but he managed to steer past that problem with a couple of aces and hold to keep within shouting distance of a happier Bulgarian 2-4.

Double fault was less than ideal for Grigor but the blistering off forehand  crosscourt winner made up for the disappointment.  Another forehand down the line was equally sweet but the net prevented a repeat of the shot.  30-30.  Break point thanks to a Nadal backhand crosscourt causing the Dimitrov error.  Saved with a forehand winner off a good serve.  A second break point due to a brilliant backhand pass.  Double fault and Dimitrov's heart sank. 3-4 Nadal back on serve.

A good switch up by Dimitrov coming in behind a deep backhand and putting away the volley. 30-15 Nadal.  Two unexpected errors from Nadal and deuce.  Another and break point.  Double fault and 5-3 Dimitrov serving for the set.  Amazing turn of events.

A pair of errors exchanged and 15-15.  Nadal stepped up the pace on the forehand and drilled a few at Dimitrov, finally drawing a mistake 15-30.  Dimitrov's out of court backhand donated two break points to Nadal.  Into the net and a third successive break.  4-5 Nadal, whose sigh of relief could be heard back in Mallorca.

The quality of tennis had dipped appreciably in recent times and the win or loss of this set was vital.  Set point for Dimitrov after an attacking backhand to Nadal approaching the net was too good and the ninth seed could only find the bottom of said net.
Saved with a glorious forehand winner from kilometres behind the baseline.  The tennis had picked up in standard just in this game.
A second set point after a backhand winner from Dimitrov.  A mishit Bulgarian backhand and deuce again.  A long rally finished with Rafa's backhand and the net together again.  A third set point was then saved.  An ace saved a fourth.  Nadal survived by the proverbial skin and games were 5-5.

A poor forehand into the net by Dimitrov and 30-30.  An ace helped.  Another good serve and the fifteenth seed had 6-5, at worst a tie break.
A Nadal forehand wide and 15-15.  A mishit forehand and 15-30.  Dimitrov covered the net wonderfully and earned two more set points with the winning volley.  Nadal sent the backhand long and Dimitrov had the set 7-5.

Dimitrov began set three from the line.  A winning forehand and 30-0.  Another crosscourt for three game points.  A love game to start the set 1-0.
A backhand winner from Nadal and errors from Dimitrov comprised a love game for Nadal also and 1-1.
A double fault and two break points against Dimitrov.  Both saved with good serves.  He led 2-1

A Grigor forehand winner and 15-15. Rafa's response was a forehand winner and then a forehand volley winner.  A Dimitrov backhand down the line and 40-30.  The serve was held. 2-2.
15-30 after two Dimitrov errors.  Sharp forehand volley winner from Dimitrov and 30-30, but break point with a forehand pushed wide.  The break with a backhand floating long. Nadal 3-2.

Two break points after a series of unforced Nadal errors.  One saved with an errant Dimitrov backhand.  The second with a volley winner after a forehand set up.  A third chance for Dimitrov following an uncharacteristic Nadal mistake.  Saved with a serve volley point.  A Dimitrov forehand earned a fourth chance.  The break came with another Nadal error.  3-3.
40-0 Dimitrov following an ace.  A Nadal forehand winner didn't stop the hold of serve, coming with another ace.  4-3 Dimitrov 

A quick hold from Nadal and 4-4.  Similarly from Dimitrov and 5-4, winners on either side coming easily.  Rafa had to hold to avoid falling behind two sets to one.
5-5, just a single point lost to serve.  Dimitrov's netted forehand gave Nadal hope at 15-30.  However the ninth seed hit one long and 30-30.  Another Rafa mistake wide was equalled by Dimitrov and deuce.  The game had degenerated and two successive Nadal errors gave Dimitrov the game in spite of himself.  6-5 Dimitrov.

40-0 Nadal after a forehand winner at the net.  6-6 tiebreak.
Both the first two points went against serve thanks to unforced errors.  Rafa won the third with a forehand.  He then forced a Dimitrov error to lead 3-1.  4-2 Nadal at change of ends.  Nadal found the net and it was back on serve 3-4 Dimitrov.
A backhand hit long by Dimitrov and 3-5.  An ace and Nadal would serve at 5-4.
Nadal put an awful forehand into the net. 5-5.  Dimitrov missed wide with a forehand and Nadal had a set point at 6-5.  A slashing backhand drew the error, won the tiebreak 7-5 and the set 7-6.

Nadal led 6-3 5-7 7-6 (5).

The fourth set began with Rafa serving.  Not much to shout about until the last point where some decent shots were played, especially the final winning forehand by Nadal. He led 1-0.
A netted volley from Dimitrov and 30-30.  Good time for an ace.  A service winner and 1-1.  Confident serving from Nadal and 40-0. A loose shot gave up a point but he held for 2-1.

A Grigor backhand winner helped him to 30-15, but he hit wide next point.  Game point after a forehand winner.  Rafa made it deuce with a winning overhead from back in the court.  Two big serves and 2-2.
A Grigor backhand winner and an overhead gave him 15-30 on the Nadal serve.  Rafa hit a majestic backhand up the line on the way to holding for 3-2.

15-15 following Dimitrov's netted shot.  He was 30-30 for the second serve in a row.  An ace relieved some anxiety.  A defensive lob helped him to 3-3.
Nadal missed a forehand and it was 15-30.  Excellently structured point finished off with a Nadal smash and 30-30.  He won the game with a backhand. 4-3.

An ordinary pair of shots by Nadal and the pressure on Dimitrov was relieved.  40-15.  Serve held 4-4.  A brilliant drop shot from Nadal and 30-0.  40-15 after a Dimitrov winner.  Nadal held for 5-4 after a Bulgarian mishit.
Grigor would be serving to stay in the match.

30-0 after some aggressive tennis from Dimitrov.  Three game points after an ace.  Another ace and 5-5.  Nadal 30-30 following a point controlled by Dimitrov.  Nadal held for 6-5.  40-0 quickly for Dimitrov.  A double fault unwelcome but a winning forehand sent the set to a tiebreak.

A great backhand from Dimitrov and 2-1 on serve.  A Nadal error and Dimitrov had the mini break at 3-2.  4-2 at the change of ends.  2-5 Nadal with serves to come.  Dimitrov 6-3 with volley winner and three set points, two on his own serve.  One saved with a Nadal pass, but a big serve clinched the tie break 7-4 and the set. 7-6.  This semi final would also go to a fifth set.

Dimitrov served first in the decider.  An ace at 0-30 but two break points when he found the net.  A sensational winner saved the first.  The second also left. A third break chance came and went. Dimitrov held 1-0.
Nadal down 0-30.  A wrong footing winner for 30-30.  A stunning backhand from Dimitrov and break point.  Saved through a Dimitrov mishit.  Serve held 1-1.

Great tennis from Dimitrov with two winners from nowhere. He held for 2-1.  
Nadal levelled for 2-2.  Two Dimitrov errors and 30-30.  Another one forced, and break point.  Saved and Dimitrov escaped 3-2.

Nadal skated to 40-0 and a big serve took him to 3-3.  Dimitrov began with yet another ace but Nadal kept him honest and 30-30 once again.  4-3 Dimitrov, arriving there via deuce.  Nadal at 0-30 in trouble.  Dimitrov generously gave a point up but not the next which he won with an overhead.  Two break points faced by Nadal.  One saved with a slashing backhand.  The next saved with a forehand volley.  Another point won at the net with a forehand volley.  Serve held and 4-4.  

Forehand winner from Nadal and 0-15.  Double fault and 0-30.  Nadal forehands hit long and wide and 30-30.  Break point with Dimitrov forehand error.  The break came with a winner down the line.  5-4 Nadal.

Serving for the match.  30-0 after two Dimitrov errors.  30-30, Dimitrov running to hit a backhand winner.  Match point after an ace.  Saved with a great overhead.  Wonderful serve drew the error.  Second match point.  Also saved with a Dimitrov winner.  Third match point.  Backhand long and the match over.

Rafa Nadal defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 5-7 7-6 (5) 6-7 (4) 6-4

Now the final against Roger Federer, the two having met in the Aus Open final once before in 2009, Nadal having won that battle, coincidentally after winning a five plus hours semi final.

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