MELBOURNE: Rafael Nadal claimed a dominant straight-sets win over world number three Milos Raonic to advance to the semi-finals at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion was too clinical for the Canadian, winning 6-4, 7-6 (9/7), 6-4 in two hours 44 minutes and will play Bulgaria’s 15th seed Grigor Dimitrov in Friday’s semi-final. He leads Dimitrov 7-1.
Nadal kept alive hopes of a much-anticipated ninth Grand Slam final with his great rival Roger Federer as the tournament got down to the last four.
It is the Spanish great’s first Grand Slam semi-final appearance since his last 2014 French Open triumph after recent injury setbacks.
“Milos is a very difficult opponent. He beat me two weeks ago in Brisbane in a tough match so I decided to go a little bit more inside the court on the return tonight,” Nadal said.
“I knew that there were going to be tough moments in the match with a player like him, that he has one of the top serves in the tour.”
It was the 30-year-old Spaniard’s fifth Australian Open semi-final and his 24th in Grand Slams.
Nadal is bidding to win his second Australian Open title and become the first man in the Open Era –- and only the third man in history –- to win each of the four Grand Slam titles twice.
With his victory Nadal is projected to rise to six in next week’s ATP rankings unless Dimitrov goes on to win the Australian title, in which case he would be number seven.
A title in Melbourne would lift Nadal to fourth on the world rankings.
Nadal began the night quarter-final better and earned a break point in the fifth game before breaking when the Canadian over-hit a smash at double break point in his next service game.
He safely negotiated the rest of his service games and took the opening set with an overhead smash.
Nadal fought off a break point in a five-deuce service game early in the second set as Raonic began to serve better.
The Canadian left the court for unspecified treatment at 3-2 and upon his return, games went with serve until Nadal came under attack in the 10th game, saving three set points with pressure serving.
Raonic had three more set points in the tiebreaker and blew them all before Nadal took a two sets lead on his first set point as the match swung decisively the Spaniard’s way.
Raonic was wayward with his volleying and made errors on crucial points to take the heat off Nadal.
There were signs of Raonic physically in trouble and he was wincing in between points.
Last year Raonic was hampered by a groin injury in his five-set loss to Andy Murray in the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
The end came quickly when Raonic fell three match points down in the 10th game and Nadal won the rally to win which he greeted with his arms raised in the air.