The Spaniard won through to the tournament decider with a brilliant straight-sets win over Greek young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas in Melbourne on Thursday night. He’ll face either world No.1 Djokovic or French 28th seed Lucas Pouille for a chance to secure a significant and unique slice of tennis history.
With only one previous Australian Open win to his name, in 2009, Nadal has a chance to become the first man in the Open era to win each of the four grand slams at least twice.
Djokovic and Federer are multiple champions at every major bar the French Open, where they’ve won just once each and Nadal is an astonishing 11-time champion.
‘HOW COULD YOU?’: JOURNO TURNS ON OSAKA
‘I’M TRYING TO THINK HOW FED BEAT HIM’: SHATTERED GREEK FREAK LEFT BAFFLED
Australians Roy Emerson and Rod Laver are the only players to have won each of the slams on two or more occasions in any era (while Laver completed the feat in 1969, some of the titles were won before the start of the Open Era.)
When it comes to the never-ending debate of who is the greatest male tennis player of all-time, achieving the feat would certainly strengthen Nadal’s position in the argument.
It would also put him in a great position in the race many ultimately consider most important — most career grand slams.
Victory on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night would take Nadal to 18 career majors, two shy of Federer’s 20, and he’ll be odds-on to claim another at the French Open.
Five years Federer’s junior, 32-year-old Nadal would then have plenty of time to match or surpass the great Swiss in men’s tennis’ all-time major winners list.
Nadal also holds a 23-15 winning head-to-head record against Federer, while Djokovic leads Nadal 27-25 and Federer 25-22.
Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed for Nadal while world No.1 and clear tournament favourite Djokovic is still around, and in the form he’s in.
But the Spaniard has surpassed even his own expectations in Melbourne considering recent injury troubles.
He withdrew from Brisbane earlier this month with a thigh strain and is contesting his first event since retiring in the semi-finals at the US Open last year, having undergone right ankle surgery in November.
“Is normal that you have doubts about me, because I have doubts about me,” Nadal said of his disrupted buildup.
“If this happens 10 years ago it probably will be a much more difficult situation for me because I needed always to be on rhythm, to play good tennis.
“… But I believe that when you are older, you lose less of the tennis when you are playing less. You don’t need that many matches to play well.
“That’s something that happened for the last two years for me.
“It’s probably one of the reasons is because I am practicing well when I am not competing, then that allow me to be back on action a little bit quicker.
“It’s not easy to be back after four months, five months, and play the way I am playing.
“Of course, I didn’t expect that at all.”
Nadal will contest the fifth Australian Open final and 25th grand slam final of his career.
ALL-TIME MEN’S CAREER GRAND SLAMS
Roger Federer 20
Rafael Nadal 17
Novak Djokovic 14
Pete Sampras 14
Roy Emerson 12
Rod Laver 11
Bjorn Borg 11