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Reunion with Fed in Grand Slam final is special, says Nadal

By Tom Allnut

Rafael Nadal admitted his exhausting five-set win over Grigor Dimitrov will put him at a disadvantage against Roger Federer in the Australian Open final.

Federer was also taken to five sets by Stan Wawrinka on Thursday but the Swiss will enjoy an extra 24 hours rest than Nadal who, for television reasons, played his semi-final yesterday.

At four hours and 56 minutes, Nadal's epic 6-3 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 victory over Dimitrov took almost two hours longer than Federer's.

And across the fortnight, Nadal has been on court for a total of 18 hours and 59 minutes, the equivalent of two routine matches more than Federer's 13 hours and 41 minutes.

It means Nadal is likely to be the wearier in tomorrow's title showdown, which could prove significant given both have recently returned from injury.

Federer, 35, is playing his first official tournament since Wimbledon last year while Nadal, 30, ended last season in October to overcome a wrist problem.

"These kind of matches, it destroys your body, but that's tennis," Nadal said. "That's special, much more special than playing best-of-three. It should be like this, in my opinion.

"For me it is fair enough. It is true that if you play a match like I had, you are in disadvantage.

"But that's a special situation. I cannot complain about that."

Nadal's one Australian Open triumph came in 2009, when he prevailed against Federer in five sets, having gone to a decider against Fernando Verdasco in the last four.

"That's what I'm going to try," Nadal said. "I am seven, eight years older but now is not the time to talk about that. (Now it) is time to be happy, very happy."

Nadal had to use every ounce of his experience and physical prowess against Dimitrov.

The Bulgarian, however, squandered three break points in the fifth as Nadal pounced at 4-4 before serving out to seal an enthralling win.

"I had a fantastic match. I am very emotional," Nadal said. "I think Grigor played great. I played great. So it was a great quality of tennis.

"It's amazing to be through to a final of a Grand Slam again here in Australia. It means a lot."

The World No.9 will now play his greatest rival Federer in a Grand Slam final, their ninth together, and 35th career meeting.

Nadal is closing in on a 15th Major title while Federer is hoping to extend his lead on the Spaniard to four by claiming his 18th.

"It is special to play with Roger again in a final of a Grand Slam, I cannot lie," Nadal said.

"It is great. It is exciting for both of us that we are still there and still fighting for important events. That's very special."

Dimitrov came within a whisker of reaching his first Grand Slam final but showed why many have the 25-year-old down as a future major champion.

"It's a disappointment," Dimitrov said. "But I don't want to get too down because it's just my second Grand Slam semi-final. I'm building on that.

"I just know that two of the greatest players of tennis are going to square off on Sunday, and it's going to be a freaking amazing match."

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