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Tennis: Federer dismisses talk of Nadal rift before Austalian Open semi encounter

ROGER Federer has dismissed suggestions his pre-tournament disagreement with Rafael Nadal would add spice to their Australian Open semi-final.

Federer and Nadal lined up a mouthwatering last-four clash in Melbourne with wins today, Federer thrashing Juan Martin Del Potro and Nadal coming through a much tougher clash against Tomas Berdych.

It will be their first meeting since a chink in their friendship appeared prior to the season's first grand slam, with Nadal criticising the Swiss for not speaking up on issues affecting the men's game.

The pair played it down at the time and Federer was at pains to point out there was no lingering resentment between them.

After his 6-4 6-3 6-2 win over Del Potro, he said: "It 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."

Of their 26 meetings, Nadal has won 17, yet they have only ever played here once, in the 2009 final which ended with Federer defeated in five compelling sets and in tears.

"I'd like to play Rafa because of our epic match in the final here a few years ago," added Federer.

"I'd like to play him again."

Federer will undoubtedly fancy his chances given his near-flawless display against Del Potro in his 1,000th tour-level match.

He came out of the blocks quickly, racing into a 3-0 lead, and it took a titanic effort from Del Potro to battle back and level it at 4-4.

But serving at 4-5, Del Potro faltered as two wonderful forehand winners from Federer handed him two set points and he clinched it on the first as the Argentinian double-faulted under the pressure.

A crushing backhand gave Federer a 3-1 advantage in the second set, although he had to hold off some stiff Del Potro resistance at 5-3 - his 6ft 6in opponent seeing four break points come and go.

It turned out to be the key game in the match as, from two sets down, a Del Potro comeback never looked likely.

The 2009 US Open champion was broken again in the opening game of the third and then again for 5-2 as Federer cruised home.

"I am happy, I thought it was a great match," Federer said. "It was tough with the sun and the shade creeping across the court but I thought it was a really high-quality match.

"Juan Martin is a great player and I knew how hard he could hit the ball so I tried to manoeuvre him round a little bit."

Nadal was made to work far harder against seventh seed Berdych before prevailing 6-7 (5/7) 7-6 (8/6) 6-4 6-3 in four hours and 16 minutes.

The Czech bossed it early on and although he squandered four set points at 6-5 on the Nadal serve, he claimed the first set on a tie-break.

The world number two was guilty of dropping the ball too short in the opener, allowing big-hitting Berdych to step up and dictate the points from the baseline, but he rectified the fault as the match progressed.

He established a 5-2 advantage only to see it wiped out as Berdych stormed back to set up another breaker.

And the underdog could have claimed that as well had he not missed a relatively straightforward volley on set point.

"I was lucky," admitted Nadal, who then pinched the set. "The second set was key to the match."

Nadal claimed the third with two breaks and a dispirited Berdych could not stem the tide in the fourth as Nadal advanced through to the last four.

"I am tired but happy with the way I resisted in the third and fourth sets after an intense battle," said the 10-time grand slam winner. "I was happy with the way I finished physically."

PA Media