Roger Federer is banking on his revitalised body and fresh input from new coach Stefan Edberg to get him over the line against old foe Rafael Nadal in Friday night’s Australian Open semi-final showstopper at Melbourne Park.
Acutely aware of Nadal’s seven-year, five-match grand slam stranglehold over him, Federer admits unlocking the key to victory over his Spanish nemesis was one of the prime reasons for turning to Edberg last October.
Finally back to peak fitness and form after a 2013 full of injuries and frustration, Federer said devising a strategy to conquer Nadal is now his, Edberg’s and long-time mentor Severin Luthi’s next major challenge.
“The head-to-head record is in his favour,” Federer said of the pair’s first grand slam meeting since Nadal beat the Swiss champion in a quality four-setter in the 2012 semi-finals in Melbourne.
“I’m looking forward to speaking to Stefan because when we spoke together when he came to Dubai and we spoke about the game; we clearly spoke about playing Rafa as well.
“He thought he had some good ideas, so I’m looking forward to what he has to say.
“Clearly with Severin, he knows him inside out. I’m looking forward to hear what the boys have to say.
“We’ll prepare. I hope I can get a win. We’ll see.”
A nasty blister on the palm of his left hand, precisely where he grips the racquet, is undermining the world No.1’s push for a second Open crown, and 14th grand slam title.
But Federer, trailing 22-10 in their career series and having not defeated Nadal at a major since the 2007 Wimbledon final, is having none of the Spaniard’s claim that his serve is particularly vulnerable.
“You are not able to accelerate at the right moment. You lose a little bit the coordination. That’s a big deal,” Nadal said after coughing up seven double-faults in his quarter-final win over Grigor Dimitrov.
But Federer countered: “Then 210 bombs are coming my way again”.
“Who knows, he’s been tough to play against, no doubt. I’m happy I get a chance to play him in a slam again. I don’t remember the last time we played.”
If Nadal is truly suffering, Federer has rarely been in a better state to exploit his great adversary after finally overcoming the back problems that plagued him in 2013.
“I am back physically. I’m explosive out there. I can get to balls. I’m not afraid to go for balls,” Federer said.
“Of course last year at times you couldn’t do it, but important is that I can do it now.
“Physically, I know that I can do it. And then because I’m feeling good physically, then I can really think about tactics I want to play, how aggressive or how passive do you want to play.
“I have all these opportunities now.”