Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have faced each other 26 times before their semifinal Australian Open match.
There are no secrets. The former World No. 1 stretched and hustled like it was their first head-to-head match, making the match seem like there was more at stake then a trip to the finals Down Under.
Despite Federer jumping out to a 4-1 lead by stretching, bending and just plain finding the extra inch on the court, Nadal struck back by doing what one would expect of a former world No. 1 - he made the shots, the angles, the winners that seemed mathematically impossible to make. Nadal served four-straight points to tie the match at 4-4-.
After Nadal made a few unforced errors, Federer quickly made the match 5-4. He served out the game with the ace.
Then, the Spaniard breezed through four straight points to even the score again at 5-all.
Through solid and sound shots, and an unforced error by Nadal in the net, the Swiss raised the Spaniard one game, taking the match to 6-5 in Federer's favor.
In a crowd-roaring first point that brought Federer to his knees, Nadal began his rally to push the match to a tiebreak and he did.
The tiebreaker started with Federer being up 2-0 before Nadal's serve overpowered his backhand to make it 2-1. Nadal made an unforced error when he drilled the ball into the net to make it 3-1 in Federer's favor. The first challenge of the night came when Federer's first serve was called out. He won the challenge and then served an ace. 4-1 Federer. Nadal had Federer running corner to corner in the next point and won it with a forehand winner. 4-2 Federer. Nadal served again. Federer challenged it, thinking the ball was out. The ball just nicked the line of the T and Federer lost the point. Federer snuck in on both of the next points, reading Nadal's slide drops and pushed the tiebreaker to 6-3. Three set points were in Federer's favor. Nadal fought off two of those set points before he hit a backhand deep to give Federer the tiebreaker and the first set.
By the end of the first set, Federer had won 38 points to Nadal's 34.
Each ATP player had converted on their one break-point opportunity but Federer found the open court more with 15 winners to Nadal's 9.
Federer is in search of his 17th Grand Slam title. Rafael Nadal is in search of his 11th. And after the first set, Federer is one set closer to being one of two men remaining in the 2012 Australian Open.