With a spot against Roger Federer in the 2017 Australian Open final on the line, a resurgent Rafael Nadal and an upstart Grigor Dimitrov are set to go head-to-head in Melbourne.
Nadal, of course, is no stranger to major final appearances, but he hasn’t been to one since the 2014 French Open, and after struggling with various injuries and ailments, many have wondered if he would ever return. It’s safe to say the 30-year-old has silenced those critics.
Dimitrov, meanwhile, has never advanced to the ultimate match in a Grand Slam, and doing so could potentially be the spring-board the talented 25-year-old needs to go from good to great.
It’s an undeniably compelling contrast of two players desperately seeking a win for two different reasons. Here’s a look at the odds, head-to-head history and a prediction for the Aussie Open semifinal matchup:
Nadal vs. Dimitrov Odds & History
Odds: Nadal (-255), Dimitrov (+215), per OddsShark.com
Head-to-Head Record: Nadal leads 7-1; you can click here for full match history
Grand Slam Head-to-Head Record: Nadal leads 1-0 (2014 Australian Open quarterfinal
Last Match: DImitrov def. Nadal 6-2, 6-4 in China Open quarterfinals on October 7, 2016 (above video)
Nadal vs. Dimitrov Prediction
Dimitrov got the best of Nadal in Beijing last year, but it’s difficult to read too much into that one, as much of the Spaniard’s 2016 season was marred by a wrist injury. Now, he looks as healthy as he has been in a long time.
The key to this one could be Rafa’s serve. In that meeting last October, Nadal was broken by the Bulgarian five times in two sets, but so far through 18 sets at the Australian Open, he has been broken just six times.
Simply put, he’s a different player this time around, and when Nadal is at or near full health, there’s little question that he has the advantage in this matchup. We’ve seen that seven times in his career.
Dimitrov is playing well and should put up a fight, but it won’t be enough to stop the tennis world from getting a dream matchup in the final.
Prediction: Nadal def. Dimitrov in 4 sets