MELBOURNE, Australia — The intensity was vintage Rafael Nadal.
On the stroke of midnight, he thrust his arms up and punched the air, sealing the victory that sets up the most anticipated semifinal at the Australian Open in quite some time.
Roger Federer did his part to put this in place. In the previous match on Rod Laver Arena, he beat 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in a quarterfinal marking his 1,000th tour level match.
A Federer-Nadal semifinal had been looming since the draw for the season's first major — the first time the pair have been in the same half at a Grand Slam tournament since 2005.
Nadal was at his demonstrative best, rallying after losing the first set to beat Tomas Berdych 6-7 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, 6-3.
Yelling "Vamos," disputing line calls, pumping his arms after winning big points and bounding around like a hyperactive kid, Nadal ripped winner after winner against Berdych in a four-hour, 16-minute display of pure intimidation.
He said he was nervous in the first set — he'd lost in the quarterfinals two straight years — but by the third and fourth sets things had changed.
"The character on court, the way to win the points … the level is very positive, much, much better than the end of the season," he said. "Semifinals is fantastic result for me."
Federer finished his match with one of his classic, one-handed backhands against Del Potro, one of two men who have beaten him in a major final. Nadal has done it six times.
Thursday's match will be the first time they have met at Melbourne Park since Nadal won the 2009 title in five sets. It will be played at 3:30 a.m. and ESPN2 will show a replay at noon.
On the women's side, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova will meet in the semifinals after both won in straight sets today.
Sharapova won 6-2, 6-3 against Ekaterina Makarova, who knocked out Serena Williams in the previous round. Kvitova earlier reached the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4 win over unseeded Sara Errani.
Defending champion Kim Clijsters will meet third-seeded Victoria Azarenka in the other semifinal.