Rafael Nadal set up a much-anticipated Australian Open final against old rival Roger Federer with an epic, five-set semi-final win over Grigor Dimitrov.
The Spaniard won 6-3 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 in almost five hours to reach a first Grand Slam final since 2014.
Dimitrov’s wait to reach a maiden Slam final continues after Nadal, 30, inflicted his first defeat of the year.
Nadal, who is bidding for a 15th major title, will face Swiss rival Federer, 35, in Melbourne on Sunday.
The ninth seed will meet Federer, who needed five sets to beat compatriot Stan Wawrinka in Thursday’s first semi-final, in Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena at 08:30 GMT.
As well as a day’s extra rest, Federer spent an hour less on court during his semi-final than Nadal, having beaten three-time Grand Slam winner Wawrinka in a comparatively quick three hours and five minutes.
Both Nadal and Dimitrov showed incredible endurance in a match during which neither man looked like wilting.
Eventually the 25-year-old Bulgarian buckled first – losing his serve at 4-4 in the deciding set – as Nadal wrapped up victory with his third match point at almost 00:45 local time.
His victory means all four singles finalists are aged 30 or over, with 35-year-old Serena Williams meeting sister Venus, 36, in the women’s final on Saturday.
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