Nadal toughs it out against Dimitrov, into semis
EDDIE JIM/The Age
DAVID GRAY/ Reuters
CLIVE BRUNSKILL/ Getty
BOBBY YIP/ Reuters
JASON REED/ Reuters
ROBERT PREZIOSO/ Getty
Stanislas Wawrinka kisses the Australian Open trophy after his first grand slam victory.
Stanislas Wawrinka sits with the Australian Open trophy at the post-final press conference.
Rafa Nadal receives treatment on his injured back during the men's singles final.
Stanislas Wawrinka reaches for a forehand during the men's singles final.
THIRD TIME LUCKY: Li Na kisses the Daphne Akhurst trophy after defeating Dominika Cibulkova in the Australian Open final.
Runner-up Dominika Cibulkova and champion Li Na during the trophy presentation.
Dominika Cibulkova pumps her fist after winning a point in the Australian Open final.
Li Na stretches for a two-handed volley in the women's final.
Rafa Nadal crushed Roger Federer in straight sets, and will play Stanislas Wawrinka for his 14th grand slam title in the Australian Open final.
Roger Federer heads to the Australian Open exit.
Li Na celebrates her semifinal win over Eugenie Bouchard.
Roger Federer reacts after match point against Andy Murray.
Grigor Dimitrov, left, and Rafael Nadal speak at the net after their epic last-eight clash.
Agnieszka Radwanska, left, shakes hands with Victoria Azarenka after their quarterfinal.
Agnieszka Radwanska is through to the Australian Open semifinals.
Eugenie Bouchard of Canada celebrates defeating Ana Ivanovic in the quarterfinals.
Li Na in quarterfinal action against Flavia Pennetta.
Roger Federer has won through to the last 16 of the Australian Open in straight sets.
Maria Sharapova hits a backhand during her third round match against Alize Cornet.
ANDY MURRAY: trailing 5-1 in the third set, Murray wins 23 straight points to close out a straight sets victory over Vincent Millot.
VICTORIA AZARENKA'S: personalised shoes during her match against Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
'FANATICS':cheer during Nick Kyrgios' match against Benoit Paire.
ROGER FEDERER: reaches to hit a return to Blaz Kavcic.
RAFAEL NADAL: fires down a serve to Thanasi Kokkinakis.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: hits a forehand during his second round match with Leonardo Mayer.
SERENA WILLIAMS: untroubled in the second round match.
MARINA ERAKOVIC: hits a forehand during her first round match with Sorana Cirstea.
ANDY MURRAY: had a comprehensive win in his first round match against Japan Go Soeda.
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: celebrates winning her first round match against Lourdes Dominguez Lino.
HARD IN THE HEAT: An official attends to a ball boy who collapsed during the men's singles match between Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain and Milos Raonic.
MILOS RAONIC: serves on an outside court with the Melbourne city skyline in the background.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Shirt changes likely common at this year's Australian Open.
SERENA WILLIAMS: overpowered Ashleigh Barty in the first round.
SABINE LISICKI: had a straightforward 6-2 6-1 win over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the first round.
MARCOS BAGHDATIS: shows flexibility's important for a pro tennis player.
YANINA WICKMAYER: beat Dinah Pfizenmaier in the first round.
VENUS WILLIAMS: bowed out early in the first round.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: got a first round win over Lukas Lacko.
EKATERINA MAKAROVA: celebrates her surprise win over Venus Williams.
DAVID FERRER: won through to the second round.
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RELIEF: Rafael Nadal celebrates after reaching the Australian Open semifinals.
Rafael Nadal admits a savage blister on his racquet hand is undermining his Australian Open campaign at Melbourne Park.
The world No 1 was treated twice for the injury during a typically tenacious 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (9-7) 6-2 quarter-final triumph on Wednesday over Bulgarian dangerman Grigor Dimitrov.
Nadal coughed up seven double-faults and conceded the deep wound was causing him big concerns ahead of a semi-final blockbuster on Friday night with four-time champion Roger Federer.
The Spanish braveheart twice had his left hand extensively re-taped during his intense three-hour, 37-minute struggle and said trying to serve with the injury was becoming a major worry.
"I feel that with the tape, I can lose the racquet when I'm serving," he said.
"That's my feeling. The racquet can go. That's a terrible feeling for a serve, because then when you have this feeling, you are not able to accelerate at the right moment.
"You lose a little bit the coordination. That's a big deal."
Nadal said his serving troubles were also affecting the rest of his game.
"When you lose the confidence with one shot, one important shot, then you are not able to play with calm the rest of the shots," he said.
"So I'm going to try to improve that for after tomorrow that I need.
"If not, I not going to have the chance to be in the final."
His injury aside, Nadal also had to overcome a one-set deficit against Dimitrov and multiple set points in the pivotal third to advance to the last four for the fourth time.
"I was so lucky," he said.
"I felt like anything could happen in the third set. I hurt a lot ... I'm very, very happy."
Dubbed "Baby Fed" for a silky playing style uncannily similar to Federer, Dimitrov showcased all his talents - including an audacious under-the-legs lob - to push Nadal to the limit.
The signs were there early that Nadal might be in for a long afternoon when a couple of uncharacteristic shanks handed Dimitrov a break in the second game of the match.
It was the only opening the underdog needed as he clinched the first set with a thundering ace.
Upping the ante, Nadal whipped a signature off-forehand winner to break Dimitrov for the first time to creep ahead 2-0 lead in the second set.
But the top seed gifted the break right back with three double-faults before hitting back in the second-set tiebreaker, ripping a forehand down the line to create three set points.
He only needed one, the Spaniard celebrating like he'd won the title after sending a ridiculous backhand flick past the 22nd seed to square the match up.
Clearly bothered by the nasty big blister, Nadal called for the trainer for the first time midway through the third set and moments later dropped serve again with a sixth double-fault.
He conjured up three big serves to hold from set point down to force a second tiebreaker, which he snatched after Dimitrov blew two more set points with rueful forehand blunders.
Two scorching backhand passes earned the top seed the decisive break early in the fourth set and, when he grabbed another in the eighth game, the 2009 champion was through.