Nadal calls final with Federer a privilege

An emotional Rafael Nadal said he never dreamed he could reach the 2017 Australian Open final, after ousting Grigor Dimitrov in an epic last-four tie to set up a dream showdown with Roger Federer.

Rafael Nadal - cropped

Rafael Nadal makes his emotions clear following his epic win over Grigor Dimitrov.

An emotional Rafael Nadal said he never dreamed he could reach the 2017 Australian Open final, after ousting Grigor Dimitrov in an epic last-four tie to set up a dream showdown with Roger Federer.

Nadal was pushed to the limit by Dimitrov in a near five-hour encounter on Rod Laver Arena, but the Spaniard ultimately edged an absorbing final set — completed at 00:44 local time.

A mouth-watering contest between Federer and Nadal — two modern-era greats with 31 slam titles between them - will now take place on Sunday.

Reflecting on his triumph over Dimitrov in an on-court interview, Nadal said with a smile: "It's difficult to describe the emotions now. First of all, I was tired, and Grigor was playing unbelievable.

"It was a great match and I feel very happy now to be part of it. I enjoyed it a lot. The crowd was just amazing. Both weeks have been just unforgettable weeks for me and to qualify for the final in a match like this means a lot to me."

On the prospect of facing great rival Federer, whom he has beaten in six of their previous eight grand-slam final meetings, Nadal added: "For me, it's a privilege - it's a very special thing, I think for both of us, to be in the final of a major again and have another chance to compete against each other after a couple of years having some problems.

"I think, both of us, we never thought that we're gonna be here again in the final of Australia - so we feel very happy."

Nadal acknowledged the challenge he faced in bouncing back from his injury troubles, a primary factor in him dropping to ninth in the world rankings. 

"Last year was tough for me because it takes a while to come back to the level that I had," he explained.

"At Roland Garros, when I had to go back home [with a wrist injury], it was a tough moment.

"I worked a lot during this month and a half at home and I never ever dreamed to be back in a final of the Australian Open, in the second tournament of the year after a lot of months without competing, but here I am and I feel lucky and very happy."

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