It took nearly five hours, but No. 9 seed Rafael Nadal defeated the 15th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov to reach the 2017 Australian Open final in Melbourne on Friday.
Rafa will have a chance to play for his 15th career Grand Slam title Sunday when he meets Roger Federer in his first Grand Slam final appearance since 2014.
Here is a look at the scores from Friday's action, as well as further analysis of the epic semifinal between Nadal and Dimitrov:
|Friday's 2017 Australian Open Scores|
|Men's Singles Semifinal||Result|
|(9) Rafael Nadal def. (15) Grigor Dimitrov||6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4|
|Women's Doubles Final||Result|
|(2) Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova def. (12) Andrea Hlavackova and Peng Shuai||6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3|
|Mixed Doubles Semifinal||Result|
|Abigail Spears and Juan Sebastian Cabal def. Elina Svitolina and Chris Guccione||7-6 (1), 6-2|
Nadal entered the semis with a ton of pressure on his shoulders due to much of the tennis world clamoring for another Grand Slam final pitting him against Federer.
The Spaniard also had to go up against an opponent who had yet to lose in 2017 and was arguably playing the best tennis of his career.
Despite those factors and Dimitrov winning a fourth-set tiebreak to force a fifth set and seize momentum, the 30-year-old veteran came through on the big stage once again.
According to the Australian Open's official Twitter account, Nadal surprised even himself by making it to this point in the tournament:
#Nadal: "I never dreamed to be back in a final... but here I am, I feel very lucky." We feel pretty lucky too, @RafaelNadal. #ausopen https://t.co/dJFrPdZAWg2017-1-27 14:02:23
The match likely took a significant mental and physical toll on Nadal, as it lasted four hours and 56 minutes.
Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times put the length of the match into perspective:
Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg
How long was Nadal-Dimitrov? It finished 19 minutes short of Karlovic-Zeballos, WHICH WENT 22-20 IN THE FIFTH GOOD GRIEF. #ausopen2017-1-27 13:51:47
Despite being five years Dimitrov's senior, Nadal showcased remarkable stamina in outlasting his younger opponent.
Although it has long been assumed that age and injuries caught up with Nadal, former Wimbledon winner Pat Cash believes he is getting back to being the player he once was:
Pat Cash @TheRealPatCash
#Nadal is in the #AusOpen final! Amazing. Such a great competitor. Every match he moves a bit closer to old top form.2017-1-27 13:45:48
Tennis was once a sport dominated by young athletes, but the 2017 Australian Open has shown that may no longer be the case.
With Serena and Venus Williams reaching the final in the women's draw, players over the age of 30 are dominating a Grand Slam like never before, per Stuart Fraser of the Times:
Stuart Fraser @stu_fraser
This is the first time in the Open Era that all four finalists at a slam are aged 30+. Venus (36), Serena (35), Federer (35), Nadal (30)2017-1-27 13:47:26
The rivalry between Nadal and Federer is one of the longest and most storied in tennis history.
They have met in many of the biggest matches of all time, and they dominated the sport together for several years.
Although they have given way to the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka recently, they find themselves back in the driver's seat.
The importance of the final and everything that goes along with it isn't lost on Nadal:
#Nadal: "It's special to play with Roger again in the final of a Grand Slam. I cannot lie." #AusOpen2017-1-27 14:05:50
The same can be said for Dimitrov, who expressed excitement for a clash between two all-time greats even after losing in heartbreaking fashion:
#Dimitrov "I just know 2 of the greatest players in history square off on Sunday and it's going to be a freaking amazing match!" #AusOpen2017-1-27 14:48:12
Rafa could be at a significant disadvantage since he played a five-set match and Federer had an extra day of rest following his semifinal win over Wawrinka.
As pointed out by Christopher Clarey of the New York Times, however, Nadal's career record against Fed is sparkling:
Christopher Clarey @christophclarey
Nadal vs Federer Nadal leads 23-11 In finals Nadal leads 14-7 At Aus Open Nadal leads 3-0 In Grand Slams Nadal leads 9-2 (6-2 in finals)2017-1-27 14:00:55
Both Nadal and Federer have been tested in Melbourne, but both took advantage of a good situation that saw Murray and Djokovic bow out unexpectedly early.
This may represent the final chance for either player to add to their Grand Slam title haul, so it is paramount to make the most of the opportunity.
Since both Nadal and Federer figure to play with desperation, there is reason to believe their match could go down as one of the biggest and best in Aussie Open history.