by: Ben Stevens

Rest assured, if you’re feeling déjà vu after yesterday, you’re not alone.

Serena, Venus and Roger in a final isn’t something you’d expect to be writing in 2017. All through their semis – some easier than others, but all once again at the mountaintop. With a combined age of 106, there’s just no way that was supposed to happen. Hell, was tennis even invented when these three were born? Doesn’t age mean anything to you three!? It’s almost enough to make a mortal mad.

Of course, the last time they were all together in a final was Wimbledon 2008 – Venus beat Serena, and Roger lost to… Rafael Nadal. Which brings us to Friday. One match to complete the quartet. Can he do it? Read on to find out.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [9] v Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) [15] – Not before 7:30 pm local

It’s a classic one-hander against the man who eats them for breakfast, but maybe not the one everyone’s most looking forward to… yet. Thankfully, this matchup offers plenty of promise in its own right, as “Baby Fed” isn’t quite the same customer as his namesake. Nadal has a commanding 7-1 lead in the head-to-head, but Dimitrov’s sole victory came in Beijing last year, and if he can repeat that 6-2, 6-4 performance, he’s got a puncher’s chance. In that match, Dimitrov showed a very un-Federerlike degree of comfort flattening out Nadal’s heavy topspin into his backhand, repeatedly responding with missiles that pinned him deep and stopped the Spaniard from exploiting the open court he’d created. Even in rallies where Nadal gained the advantage, Dimitrov showed exceptional hands to give Nadal repeated doses of his own, “make the other guy hit one more shot” medicine, and backed it up with some brilliant serving. Overflowing with confidence, Dimitrov was absolutely fearless on the Nadal serve, creating 15 break point opportunities – a volume that is essential against someone who plays them so well.

That’s an awful lot of things Dimitrov has to replicate – and against Nadal, he’ll need all of them, but at least we know it’s possible. The 2009 AO champ has looked stronger as the tournament has gone on, and with Federer waiting in the final, he has to be desperate to get back there and stick it to him one more time. As much as that Beijing match showed a better version of Dimitrov, against Raonic we were treated to a better version of Nadal, one who both absorbs pressure and creates it, capable of winning from any position, but also playing sound attacking tennis that had him opening the court with a slice backhand, or stepping in behind a serve. This is as dangerous as he’s looked on a hard court in quite some time, and after all this time of tennis fans wishing for another Fedal final, we might just get it.


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