Rafael Nadal avoids top player exodus from Australian Open

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SummaryRafael Nadal avoided the top player exodus that claimed two-time defending women's champion Victoria Azarenka in the preceding match on center court with a 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (7), 6-2 win over Grigor Dimitrov in the Australian Open quarterfinals Wednesday.

Rafael Nadal avoided the top player exodus that claimed two-time defending women's champion Victoria Azarenka in the preceding match on center court with a 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (7), 6-2 win over Grigor Dimitrov in the Australian Open quarterfinals Wednesday.

Rafael Nadal, who received treatment several times for a nasty-looking blister on the palm of his left hand that he said caused him to serve slower than usual, advanced to a semifinal match against the winner of the marquee quarterfinal between Andy Murray and Roger Federer later Wednesday.

Azarenka won't have a semifinal date. No. 5-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska stopped Azarenka's 18-match winning run at Melbourne Park with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 win earlier in the day.

That means both defending champions went out in the quarterfinals - Novak Djokovic lost to Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday, ending his bid for a fourth consecutive men's title. Azarenka had been aiming for three in a row and other women's title contenders Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova didn't even make it as far as the quarterfinals.

Rafael Nadal won on his fourth match point on Dimitrov's serve in 3 hours, 37 minutes, a long time after his celebration following a second-set tiebreaker that more resembled a victory dance. He stayed in a squat position after his winning cross-court shot and then pumped his chest out three times.

There were more muted celebrations after a tiebreaker in the third set, with Rafael Nadal acknowledging Dimitrov let him off the hook with a wide forehand on set point.

"It's a tough moment mentally for an opponent,'' Rafael Nadal said. "If that forehand from him goes in and he wins the third, I'm going to be fighting.''

Rafael Nadal fended off three set points in the third set, including two in the tiebreaker, and won on his first set point.

He went up 2-0 in the fourth when he hit a passing backhand down the line on break point with Dimitrov standing at the net. At the end, Dimitrov appeared to wipe tears from his eyes with a towel as he walked off Rod Laver Arena.

Dimitrov was still emotional during his post-match news conference,

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