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Nadal’s continues mastery of Federer

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POSTED January 24, 2014 11:32 p.m.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal continued his dominant streak over Roger Federer to reach the Australian Open final for the third time, beating the 17-time major winner 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3 Friday night to set up a championship decider against No. 8-seeded Stan Wawrinka.

With his 23rd win in 33 matches against Federer, the 27-year-old Spaniard set up an ideal chance to win a 14th Grand Slam title and to become the first man to win all four majors at least twice in the Open era.

Nadal missed the 2013 Australian Open during a seven-month layoff for illness and a knee injury, but returned to win the French and U.S. Opens among his 10 titles for the season and finished the year at No. 1. He won the Australian Open in 2009, beating Federer in the final, and lost in a five-set, 5-hour, 53-minute 2012 final to Novak Djokovic after ousting Federer in the semis. In other years, he’s struggled with injuries — it’s the only Grand Slam tournament he hasn’t won at least twice.

“It’s really, really emotional for me to be back on this court, Rod Laver Arena, and to be able to play another final,” Nadal said. “I think tonight I played the best match of the tournament. I go on court (against Federer) knowing that is a really tough match and if I am not playing my best, I will not have the chance to win.”

At the end of the night, Federer knew he wouldn’t even be the No. 1-ranked player in Switzerland next week. By reaching his first major final, Wawrinka ensured he’d replace Federer as their country’s highest-ranked player for the first time.

“I still think my best tennis is only ahead of me now,” said Federer, who reached the Australian Open semifinals for 11 consecutive years.

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