Australian Open: Roger Federer still can't figure out Rafael Nadal

Story highlights

  • Rafael Nadal beats Roger Federer in straight sets to reach Australian Open final
  • World No. 1 will play Federer's fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in Sunday's decider
  • Top seed Nadal has won each of his past five matches against Federer
  • Nadal improves his record against 17-time grand slam champion to 23-10

Even a new, high-profile coach couldn't help Roger Federer figure out Rafael Nadal.

Federer hadn't beaten Nadal in seven years in a grand slam -- and on a chilly night in Melbourne the world No. 1 kept the streak alive, improving his record over the Swiss to 23-10 overall as he advanced to the Australian Open final.

The Spaniard pulled out a tight first set and then cruised to a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 6-3 victory Friday to set up an encounter with Federer's compatriot, Stanislas Wawrinka.

"I played a lot of times against Roger, and a lot of times I played great against him," Nadal told reporters. "So probably that's why I had this success against him."

If Nadal wins Sunday he would rise to 14 majors and tie American Pete Sampras -- in attendance at Rod Laver Arena during a rare foray to a grand slam in retirement -- for second on the men's all-time list behind Federer.

The odds are heavily stacked in his favor given he is even more dominant against debutant grand slam finalist Wawrinka, not losing a set in their 12 encounters. Wawrinka progressed Thursday by downing Czech Tomas Berdych.

Tennis legends' surprising comebacks
Tennis legends' surprising comebacks

    JUST WATCHED

    Tennis legends' surprising comebacks

MUST WATCH

Tennis legends' surprising comebacks 01:41
Secret to beating tennis' big four
Secret to beating tennis' big four

    JUST WATCHED

    Secret to beating tennis' big four

MUST WATCH

Secret to beating tennis' big four 05:40

Federer sought the services of Stefan Edberg in an effort to regain his old form and the 32-year-old, troubled by his back in 2013, duly produced big wins over former Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray this fortnight.

But Nadal's transition from defense to offense thwarted Federer, as he continued to enjoy success employing his heavily spun forehand to the Federer backhand and he served impeccably.

Nadal, who won the French and U.S. Opens last year in a successful return from knee problems, was broken only once -- in the middle of the third set.

Blog: Honor in defeat for Federer

"Playing Murray or Rafa is day and night," Federer told reporters. "It's just every point is played in a completely different fashion and I have to totally change my game."

Edberg was a serve-and-volleyer who triumphed at Wimbledon twice, and Federer wasn't afraid to approach the net.

However, he has used the tactic in the past against Nadal and on Friday won only 55% of net points.

Indeed Nadal didn't think Federer tried much new -- saying he perused YouTube and watched some of their 2012 Melbourne semifinal, which he also won before losing the title match to Novak Djokovic.

Pat Rafter grooms the next generation
Pat Rafter grooms the next generation

    JUST WATCHED

    Pat Rafter grooms the next generation

MUST WATCH

Pat Rafter grooms the next generation 03:05
The rise of Australian Open
The rise of Australian Open

    JUST WATCHED

    The rise of Australian Open

MUST WATCH

The rise of Australian Open 03:05

"I think he tried to play very aggressive, taking the ball very early," said Nadal. "But if you go to YouTube and you see the video of the 2012 match, you will see that he was playing very, very aggressive, too, especially the beginning of the match.

"So nothing is completely new."

Nadal's passing shots left the crowd gasping, especially a forehand down the line in the final game.

"Coming into the match I thought we would have a chance today but the way the match came about, Rafa played very, very well and Roger didn't have that many chances," Edberg told a small group of reporters.

"Playing against Rafa at this level is very hard," he added. "It wasn't enough today, but I think he's made a lot of progress over the last three months.

"It's looking good for the rest of the year. He still has a way to go before he is back to the level where he can be."

Edberg said the match might have turned out differently had Federer broken early in the first set. He likely was referring to the fourth game, when Nadal escaped a 0-30 hole.

Rafael Nadal's triumphant comeback
Rafael Nadal's triumphant comeback

    JUST WATCHED

    Rafael Nadal's triumphant comeback

MUST WATCH

Rafael Nadal's triumphant comeback 01:21

Nadal raced to a 5-1 lead in the tiebreak, closed out the set and broke on his eighth chance of the match to take a 4-2 stranglehold in the second.

By that time Nadal took a medical timeout for a lingering blister on his left palm and Federer complained to the chair umpire -- not for the first time in his career -- about the left-hander's grunting.

Despite the loss, Edberg remained upbeat about Federer's chances of achieving an 18th major.

"Roger had a tough year last year," said Edberg. "At least now he feels healthy, which is No. 1. No. 2 he needs to put in a lot of work, which he is doing.

"He just needs to gain a bit more momentum, a bit more confidence. That will come with time. I think in a few months you should see him even better than what we've seen this week."

Nadal, who won the tournament in 2009 but was absent last year, is doing fine at the moment.

Read: Size doesn't matter for victorious Cibulkova

Read: Can't stand the heat? Try Bikram yoga

        Tennis

      • Rafael Nadal of Spain watches the ball in his match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia during during day seven of the China Open at the National Tennis Center on October 3, 2014 in Beijing, China.

        What does 2015 hold for Rafa?

        Rafael Nadal's body might be giving him a few problems, but his mind remains as strong as ever. Will the Spaniard add to his haul of 14 grand slam titles?
      • LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and his long time girlfriend Kim Sears arrive at Buckingham Palace on October 17, in London, England. Murray will become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and receive his medal from the Duke of Cambridge. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

        Love game: Andy Murray to tie knot

        The Scot has served up a few changes to his support team in 2014 but there's one person who isn't going anywhere -- his new fiancée Kim Sears.
      • Despite being forced to retire at the age of 24 due to health problems, Lacoste remained in the game and went on start the "Lacoste" brand in 1933, which specialised in tennis products. The inspiration for the company's logo came from his nickname as a player, "le crocodile."

        'Crocodile' who broke all the rules

        His distinctive crocodile logo is seen on clothing all over the world, but Rene Lacoste also left a lasting legacy in the development of tennis.
      • Serena Williams of the US holds the US Open trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their US Open 2014 women's singles finals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 7, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

        Serena savors U.S. Open win

        Serena Williams is without peer in the modern women's game and now she is on a par with two American tennis legends from the past.
      • American tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, whom she beat in two sets to become the first black woman to win the Women's Singles Finals at Wimbledon.

        The amazing life of Althea Gibson

        Over the course of her remarkable life, Althea Gibson was many things to many people -- but it was tennis where she really left her mark.
      • Courting couple at match point

        "I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
      • LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 03: Tennis / Frauen: Wimbledon 2004, London; Finale; Siegerin Maria SHARAPOVA / RUS 03.07.04. (Photo by Bongarts/Bongarts/Getty Images)

        'Baby' Sharapova's big moment

        It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
      • 'Swiss Miss' follows mom's lead

        Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.