FOUR-TIME Australian Open champion Roger Federer has shrugged off suggestions a simmering row with Rafael Nadal will poison the occasion when the arch-rivals meet in the semi-finals tomorrow.
Federer is still to drop a set in Melbourne this year after swiftly dispensing with Argentinian 11th seed Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on the occasion of his 1,000th tour-level match.
Nadal had rather more difficulty overcoming seventh seed Tomas Berdych, the world No2 having to recover from losing the opening set to beat the Czech 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, 6-3 in a four-hour epic.
The two superpowers of men’s tennis for the last six years clashed before the tournament, when Nadal accused Federer of failing to back his fellow professionals’ concerns over a gruelling tour schedule.
But world No3 Federer said: “It [the row] was here for one day and then gone again. I’m happy about that because it didn’t deserve the attention it got. For me it’s just another great match with Rafa.”
Federer, 30, welcomed the chance to gain revenge over Nadal, however, having been left beaten and tearful when they last met at the grand slam, in the 2009 final. “I’d like to play Rafa because of our epic match in the final here a few years ago,” the Swiss added. “I’d like to play him again.”
The 16-time grand slam champion, looking to add to his record haul for the first time in two years, was imperious in his defeat of Del Potro, the 2009 US Open winner.
Nadal, however, underlined his reputation as the gutsiest of competitors against Berdych, who eventually claimed the opening set in a tie-break that saw the Spaniard argue with the umpire over a line call.
The Majorcan was taken the distance in the second set too, but this time prevailed – and it proved a turning point as Nadal won a third-set battle of wills to reach the last four.