Australian Open SF preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Dimitrov

It can never be considered a complete surprise to see Rafael Nadal in the latter stages of a Grand Slam, but this bottom-half semifinal at the Australian Open could not have been anticipated by many when the fortnight began. It will be Nadal vs. Grigor Dimitrov on Friday.

Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov will be squaring off for the ninth in their careers when they collide in the Australian Open semifinals on Friday night.

Nadal is dominating the head-to-head series 7-1, including 4-1 on hard courts and 1-0 in Melbourne. They faced each other in the quarterfinals of this event three years ago, when the Spaniard prevailed 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(7), 6-2. Dimitrov finally got on the scoreboard in this matchup with a 6-2, 6-4 rout last fall in Beijing, but that came during a stretch in which Nadal somewhat inexplicably played two fall-swing tournaments in between the U.S. Open and a premature end to his season because of a wrist problem.

It’s safe to say the 14-time major champion has recovered nicely from the injury that forced him out of the French Open after two rounds and prevented him from playing Wimbledon. Nadal won the six-man Abu Dhabi event a few weeks ago, lost a three-setter to Milos Raonic in the Brisbane quarters, and then avenged that defeat by beating Raonic 6-4, 7-6(7), 6-4 on Wednesday. The world No. 9 preceded that result with wins over Florian Mayer, Marcos Baghdatis, Alexander Zverev (five sets), and Gael Monfils.

Dimitrov is through to his second career slam semifinal (Wimbledon in 2014) thanks to defeats of Matthew O’Connell, Hyeon Chung, Richard Gasquet, Denis Istomin, and David Goffin. The 15th-ranked Bulgarian is an amazing 10-0 this year, having warmed up for the Aussie Open by capturing the Brisbane title.

“He’s a player that has been on the tour for a lot of years already,” Nadal said of Dimitrov. “He’s a player that has an unbelievable talent; unbelievable potential. He started the season playing unbelievable. (It) is going to be a very tough match for me. I hope for him, too. I’m going to try to play my best because I know he’s playing with high confidence.”

What’s more unbelievable is that six of the eight semifinalists–three on the men’s side and three women–are into their 30s. That includes Nadal and Roger Federer. If a dream Nadal-Federer final is derailed, it likely won’t be Dimitrov holding responsibility. He does not have the same firepower like that of Raonic or Zverev with which to seriously trouble the former world No. 1. Nadal actually finished with more winners than Raonic in the quarterfinals, an obvious indication that he is playing the correct way: offensively.

More of the same from Nadal would be more than enough to get past Dimitrov.

Pick: Nadal in 4

29 Comments on Australian Open SF preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Dimitrov

  1. Oh. My. God. Unbelievable! Huge congrats to Rafa!! And congrats to Dimi too. He’s got time still, and he really has become a different and better player.

    Kudos to those of you who watched it live. I can’t, not any more. I did watch Rafa’s 2009 semi and final live with the total conviction that he would win it. I was younger and healthier back then. Now I’m convinced that watching a match like these have been would quite literally kill me. On TV anyway. Strangely, it’s easier in the stadium, for me at least.

    All I can say is: Rafa is so worth it!!

    • Rada won? I went back to sleep and checked my recording, but it cut off’

      Rafa won? Really? I only had 3 hours sleep. And my mind isn’t working!

      • I hear you NNY, i have not slept through the night and now I am just on all the blogs and my mind is too active to go to sleep.

        • Vmk1,

          I am a wreck! I went in espn to see the highlights of the fifth set and Rafa winning. They are replaying it on the tennis channel and I am recording it.

          I was so sure that Rafa was going to lose because he was struggling. Then to wake up
          And play my recording and see that Rafa was up two sets to one and couldn’t close it out in the fourth set. Then he finally wins in the fifth!

          They are going to have to work some magic on Rafa to get him ready.


          I owe you an apology because I did not think this would be like the 2009 AO semi with Nando. But it did turn out to be a battle!

          The only thing that can stop Rafa is if he cannot recover enough! But I have to believe that he will find a way!

  2. I only saw 5th set and that was the tighest and best maybe.. I could not muster the courage to see the match and peeped in after 3 hr 45 mns assuming it maybe over..It was 2 sets all (:-

    Remember NNY, vmk1, Mira..i told in morning..was getting bad nervy feelings. I knew Dimi will give it his all in the match.

    I did not see 5th set..but as well as Dimi played..I bet Rafa was not at his best ..else this would not go 5th set he was hitting too many loopy FH, CC FH and Dimi would just hit a BH or FH DTL for winner..but the bps saved by Rafa getting offensive were worldclass.. would you rate Rafas performance? What worked, what did not?

    I am now very sceptical how much will he have to give in final given extent of recovery 2009..he was 8 years younger ..

    • Oh God! Rafa won! I can’t believe it. I thought he was going to lose.

      Will he have anything left for the final!

    • Shireling and Sanju,please get good vibes about the final. I do not know about Rafa but I will certainly pass out if another humdinger is in store

      • What is destined to happen will happen vmk1…Lets see what happens..

        Hope Moya, Toni, and Rafas fitness trainer really gets him ready

        • atleast this match was some 45 minutes shorter than verdasco match..and thankfully fed is 8 years older too 🙂

          Feds 5 setter lasted 3 hours and Rafas 5 hours..the quality of first semi was nowhere close to this one.

  3. Mira Andi,

    I read the comments and you hurt my feelings by saying that I was a traitor and left you! I told you I was struggling to stay awake! I tried, you know I tried! I am just exhausted!

    • Ha ha ha ha…Oh Nny!i’m just kidding!Sorry sorry sorry okay?WILL YOU FORGIVE ME MA’AM?I PROMISE NEVER EVER HURT YOUR FEELINGS AGAIN!FORGIVE ME NNY??PLEASE!!!

      • Mira Andi,

        Yes of course dear! I just couldn’t do it! I did try! I will be here for the final!

        I salute those who made it to the end! I have only gotten 3 hours sleep and want get some more sleep before I have to go out this afternoon,

        I just wonder if Rafa will have enough left for the final. This match went on forever.

        Now it is reminding me of 2009 when Rafa had that epic semi with Nando and then had to play on one dsy’s rest!

        I still love you! Just forgive me for not being able to stay up!

        • Oh My God Nny!U scared me!!And i’m crying all over again now!I thought u really mad and hurt by my words..i just made a stupid jokes with amy and not meant anything by it…Sorry Nny,i promise i will guard my words and fingers better next time okay??I love u Nny and i will hate myself if i hurt one of the most nicest,kind,sweet and lovable posters on TG…Thank u for forgave me okay Nny?

        • That match was hard on Moya too!. Did you see him at match point? Stretched out with his head down on the rail? Toni was up and yelling at Rafa. I guess he’s used to it after all these years.

      • Mira Andi,

        You are making me cry. I should have known you were kidding, but I so tired.

        I have to try and get some more sleep. I will talk to you later!

        You forgive me for doubting you! I smile just too tired to think clearly!

        Love you!

  4. I just saw a 28 minute highlights reel on YT..I know Rafa won and I dont want to be negative but he surely did not play well in set 2, 3, 4. He was hitting short, not pulling trigger fast, going loopy and CC a lot instead of DTL, waiting for Dimis errors. However Rafas serving was good.

    Rafa – This FH to single handed BH cannot be rinsed and repeated. You tried it a lot in this match and hope it taught you a lesson . Hope you pull the offensive trigger fast against Federer and not play the typical FH to BH pattern and start going DTL quick . Fed is changed now, comes to net a lot. Moya – Please watch Fed matches carefully 🙂

  5. From another site summary of the match

    1st set: Rafa’s cleanest serving of the match. 2 aces and 5 service winners, mixed up the variety well, going early to the wide serve on SS to prevent Grigor getting IOFH returns. This was Nadal’s most aggressive set on return, standing close to the baseline for 1st returns, inside baseline to thump SS returns. Rafa secured the early break with a FHPS, and served it out with zero problems. The FHCC was gettting deep with kick, and he was smoking that BHCC whenever Grigor went BHDTL.

    2nd set: Rafa took position deep behind baseline to receive for most of set. Nadal started getting too predicable hitting IOFH, Dimitrov was ready for the FH reply many times. Rafa also started misfiring with the FH (7 UFE during the set). Dimitrov won 12/14 net points, was more aggressive overall and broke to take a wonky 2nd set.

    3rd set: They stared each other down, trading breaks to arrive at the first Tiebreaker. Nadal switched his patterns, using a couple BHDL and FHDTL to catch Grigor off guard. Then Rafa went back to the BHCC to take a very tight breaker. Grigor started forcing issue with his BHDTL resulting in 10 UFES. I thought it would be routine from here.

    4th set: Both players held their ground with clean serving. Dimitrov was aggressive coming forward, was clutch even though he was serving from behind to stay in the match. Clean WUFE ratios, Grigor really nailing some beauty BHDTL winners. Both players got many returns in play, but each server was clutch on finishing shots. Grigor took full advantage with his minibreaks in the TB. Going the distance.

    5th set: Dimitrov’s OHBH held up admirably for the entire match, but now his MPH on serve dropped significantly in the decider, his arm was entering wet-noodle territory. Rafa was able to stay back and nail some returns deep with topspin. Rafa really took the initiative, taking his shots DTL from both wings, and the risk paid off; he fought off two BPs at 4-4 by going down the line, and then nailed an INSANE IIFH to set up game point. Rafa got his teeth into a few return games before finally converting on his 6th BP. He served it out thanks to some clutch first serving. GSM.

    This was an incredible match. Grigor defended like a maniac; it’s not often that Nadal is the one forced to hit shot after shot to finally close points. Dimitrov’s OHBH was gutsty, going DTL for clear winners numerous times, but this strategy did hurt him when he got too eager to pull the trigger. Rafa’s plan of breaking down the Grigor OHBH worked, but it took five sets, he was too reliant on that pattern, playing the safer CC shots when some earlier DTL would have kept some points much shorter. Rafa was cracking that BHCC, though. It was probably his most important shot of the match, neutralizing Dimitrov FHCC, and making Grigor cover the line when he went DTL from the Ad-court. Beyond any exes and ohs, Rafa just delivered when it was all on the line. Fantastic to see that the real Rafael Nadal is back. Hopefully he can recover well for a great final.

  6. Basically Rafa going CC FH to Dimis BH over and over again..delayed the match..he never pulled trigger for DTL FH soon enough..many times Dimi hit BH DTL for winners

    Rafas CC BH was great too

  7. Rafa basically played poorly in the second set. He was too tentative, nervous, his serve could do no damage to Dimi who was also anxious but Rafa was even worse. However, through the rest of the match they were both outstanding, with Dimitrov playing deep, running like crazy and forcing Rafa to misfire…tennis was on very high level. Even though I thought at some point in the 4th Rafa would finally break Dimi’s resistance, the younger one refused to go away.,,in the fifth, I felt they were even and both played well, but feared Rafa might play one lousy game and lose the whole thing as he did many times in the last few years… at that time Rafa became more and more aggressive, successfully executing at the net and fighting off key break points..,amazing tennis it was from both of them.,,Dimi served great, fired 20 aces, defended like there was no tomorrow..,in the end, Rafa won because he never stopped believing, he had his eyes and his mind on the final! I am so proud of Rafa! ❤

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