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I still doubt my ability on big stage, admits Nadal

By Tom Allnutt

Rafael Nadal is back in a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time in three years after beating third seed Milos Raonic at the Australian Open.

Nadal had not made the last four of a Major tournament since the 2014 French Open but he now stands two wins away from a 15th Grand Slam triumph after beating Raonic 6-4 7-6 (9-7) 6-4.

His reward is a meeting with the in-form Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who had earlier seen off Belgium's David Goffin 6-3 6-2 6-4.

The Spaniard's victory also moves him one step closer to a potential ninth Grand Slam final against Roger Federer, who plays fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the other semi-final.

Nadal and Federer, 30 and 35 respectively, last met in the final here in 2009, when Nadal prevailed in five sets.

Dimitrov will certainly be no pushover, however, having continued his superb start to the season by reaching his second Grand Slam semi-final in Melbourne.

But Nadal has won seven of their eight career match-ups and looks to have rediscovered his groove after a turbulent 2016, which was hampered by a niggling wrist problem.

His dismantling of Raonic, the highest seed left in the tournament, was impressive and another indication he may be ready to reclaim the title he won on Rod Laver Arena eight years ago.

Nadal lost here in the first round to Fernando Verdasco 12 months ago and admitted to wondering if he might never challenge for Major honours again.

"I am not a very arrogant person so I always have doubts," Nadal said.

"It is normal, even when I was winning a lot I had doubts so you can imagine I have more when I am not winning and have injuries.

"The good thing is when you have doubts you feel ready to work more, you know how tough all the victories are.

"I've had a great career but had a lot of tough moments that makes me enjoy the good moments even more."

Raonic squandered six set points in a tight second set, three at 5-4 and another three in the tie-break, before Nadal converted his first to move two sets clear.

"I was playing a very difficult opponent," said Nadal who will play Dimitrov tomorrow, a day later than Federer's match with Wawrinka, but said he would be watching the all-Swiss showdown.

"I love the sport," Nadal said. "If you don't want to watch this match you don't like the sport."

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