MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal continued his domination of Roger Federer, creating more distance in their long rivalry with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-3 win in the Australian Open semifinals Friday at Rod Laver Arena.
No. 1 Nadal, seeking his second Grand Slam title in Melbourne and his 14th overall, leads the head-to-head with Federer 23-10, including 9-2 at majors.
Spain's Nadal will face another Swiss, surprise finalist and No. 8 seed Stanislas Wawrinka, in Sunday's final.
After his worst season in a decade, 32-year-old Federer, seeded sixth, arrived in Melbourne with a new, larger racket and new voice in his ear, adviser Stefan Edberg.
Federer used an aggressive game plan, but the 17-time major winner could not penetrate Nadal's defenses and seemed to wear down mentally as the match wore on.
"I tried a few things ... then again, Rafa does a good job of neutralizing you," Federer said. "So I guess at times I couldn't quite do what I wanted to do, but that's because of Rafa."
The match was close, back-and-forth for a set and a half, even though Federer had lost the first-set tiebreaker.
Then it changed.
At 15-30 in the sixth game of the second set, Federer thought he'd wrong-footed Nadal with a volley deep into the left corner. Nadal lunged for a desperate forehand, swinging just as the ball was about to bounce for the second time and angling it back over the net. Federer, in good position but not expecting he'd need to play another shot, framed a volley. It gave Nadal a break point, and he quickly broke Federer for the first time in the match.
"I don't have crazy regrets tonight," Federer said. "I wish I had created more opportunities for myself."
Nadal beat Federer here in 2009 for his only Australian Open title.
"First of all, to play with Roger is always a very special feeling, he's probably the opponent that when I go to court I have very, very emotional feelings," Nadal said. "We play a lot of times for important things in our career. And today was another important match.
"I think tonight I played the best match of the tournament, so happy about that."
Despite the strong week by Federer, on Monday he will not be the highest-ranked Swiss player; that will be Wawrinka. It's the first time Wawrinka will be ranked ahead of Federer; the duo teamed to win gold in doubles at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
"I still think my best tennis is only ahead of me now," said Federer, 32, who reached the Australian Open semifinals for 11 consecutive years.
"It was a great start to the season for me, overall. I played some really good tennis here. I'm looking forward to the next couple of months."
Nadal missed the 2013 Australian Open during a seven-month layoff for illness and a knee injury, but returned to win the French and U.S. Opens among his 10 titles for the season and finished the year at No. 1.
"It's really, really emotional for me to be back on this court, Rod Laver Arena, and to be able to play another final," Nadal said.
His previous match against Federer in a Grand Slam was here in 2012, when he beat him in four sets in the semifinals before losing the five-set, five-hour, 53-minute final to Novak Djokovic.
Nadal is now second on the list of players reaching Grand Slam finals, joining Ivan Lendl on 19 — Federer leads the list with 24, but hasn't figured in a major final since winning Wimbledon in 2012.
Nadal has struggled with a blister on the palm of his left hand in his last two matches. A TV camera got a close-up view of the blister when he took a medical timeout after the first game of the second set, drawing gasps and groans from the crowd.
"We are doing the right things, the blister (was) not a problem tonight," Nadal said after the match.
Wawrinka beat Tomas Berdych in four sets on Thursday night to reach his first major final, getting an extra day off ahead of Sunday's championship match.
Women's doubles: Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci rallied to win the last five games and successfully defended their Australian Open women's doubles title on Friday with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory over Russian pair Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.
Contributing: The Associated Press