Federer was also taken to five sets by Stan Wawrinka on Thursday but the Swiss star enjoyed an extra 24 hours rest than Nadal who, for television reasons, played his semi-final yesterday. At four hours and 56 minutes, Nadal’s epic 6-3 5-7 7-6 (7/5) 6-7 (4/7) 6-4 victory over Dimitrov took almost two hours longer than Federer’s.
And across the fortnight, Nadal has been on court for a total of 18 hours and 59 minutes, the equivalent of two routine matches more than Federer’s 13 hours and 41 minutes.
It means Nadal is likely to be the wearier contestant in Sunday’s title showdown, which could prove significant given both finalists have only recently returned from injury.
Federer, 35, is playing his first official tournament since Wimbledon last year while Nadal, 30, ended last season in October to overcome a niggling wrist problem.
“These kind of matches, even for the body, it destroys your body, but that’s tennis,” Nadal said.
“That’s special, much more special than playing best-of-three. It should be like this, in my opinion.
“For me it is fair enough. It is true that if you play a match like I had today, it probably is true that you are in disadvantage, yes.
“But that’s a special situation, no? I cannot complain about that.”
Nadal’s one Australian Open triumph came in 2009, when he prevailed against Federer, in five sets, having gone to a decider against Fernando Verdasco in the last four.
“That what I’m going to try,” Nadal said. “I am seven, eight years older but now is not the time to talk about that. (Now it) is time to be happy, very happy.”
Nadal had to use every ounce of his experience and physical prowess against Dimitrov, who threatened to derail Melbourne’s dream reunion by twice coming from behind to force a decider.
The Bulgarian, however, squandered three break points in the fifth as Nadal pounced at 4-4 before serving out to seal an enthralling win.
“I have a fantastic match. I am very emotional,” Nadal said. “I think Grigor played great. I played great. So it was a great quality of tennis tonight.
“So just for me, is amazing to be through to a final of a grand slam again here in Australia at the first of the year. It means a lot to me.”
The world number nine will now play his greatest rival Federer in a grand slam final, their ninth together, and 35th career meeting.
Nadal is closing in on a 15th major title while Federer is hoping to extend his lead on the Spaniard to four by instead claiming his 18th.
“It is special to play with Roger again in a final of a grand slam, I cannot lie,” Nadal said.
“It is great. It is exciting for me and for both of us that we are still there and still fighting for important events. So that’s important for us, I think. That’s very special.
“After that it is a final. It is a very important match for both of us. I hope to be ready to compete well again. I need to go back to the hotel, to rest well, and to recover from now.”
Dimitrov came within a whisker of reaching his first grand slam final but showed why many have the 25-year-old down as a future major champion.
“For sure it’s a disappointment to me,” Dimitrov said. “But I don’t want to get too down on it because it’s just my second grand slam semi-final. I’m building on that.”
On the final, he added: “I just know that two of the greatest players of tennis are going to square off on Sunday, and it’s going to be a freaking amazing match.”
Meanwhile Serena Williams believes facing her sister Venus in today’s Australian Open final will be the greatest moment of both their careers (8.30am, live on Eurosport, highlights BBC1 1.15pm).
The siblings go head-to-head in Melbourne for the 28th time in their lives and in a ninth grand slam final, long after many considered their joint domination of the game to be finished.
It means Venus and Serena, aged 36 and 35 respectively, reunite this weekend, 19 years after their first competitive meeting in the second round of the Australian Open and eight since their last shared major final at Wimbledon.
“This probably is the moment of our careers so far. For me, I can definitely say for me,” Serena said.
“Nothing can break our family. If anything, this will definitely bring us closer together, knowing that I want to see her do the best that she can possibly do.
“I know that she definitely wants to see me do the best that I can do. This is a story. This is something that I couldn’t write a better ending for. This is a great opportunity for us to start our new beginning.
“It’s the one time that I really genuinely feel like no matter what happens, I can’t lose, she can’t lose.”