(CNN) -- Rafael Nadal reached his first Australian Open final after a marathon five-set victory over Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco which ended in the early hours of Saturday morning in Melbourne.
Nadal shows his joy and relief after his marathon five-set win over Verdasco.
World number one Nadal set up a Sunday showdown with Roger Federer after a 6-7 6-4 7-6 6-7 6-4 win that occupied five hours and 14 minutes and kept the capacity crowd on the Rod Laver on the edge of their seats until the last stroke.
Verdasco, who had brilliantly leveled at two sets all, finally cracked as he served at 4-5 down in the decider.
A double fault left Nadal with three match points, the first two confidently saved with forehand volleys, before Verdasco tamely served up another double fault.
Nadal sunk to his back in relief before straddling the net to warmly embrace Verdasco, who had played his full part in a memorable match which proved the longest in the tournament's history.
The previous longest match at Melbourne Park came in 1991, when German great Boris Becker needed 5 hours and 11 minutes to beat Italian Omar Camporese, with the fifth set going to 14-12.
"He deserved to win too," said a relieved Nadal.
14th seed Verdasco had put out Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his previoius two matches and proved the stronger player in the opening set which he took on a tiebreak.
Nadal was facing a barrage of Verdasco winners, but kept plugging away in the second set when others might have wilted.
At 5-4 a stunning rally took him to set point and he leveled it up when Verdasco hit long to be broken for the first time.
Nadal pulled an early break ahead to lead 2-0 in the third set only for Verdasco to retrieve it immediately.
Nadal again went a break up with Verdasco replying again with his best play of the match.
But the effort was taking its toll as he showed signs of tiredness in losing the subsequent tiebreaker 7-2.
The fourth set was again close but in the tiebreak it was Verdasco who stepped up a gear with a string of thumping forehand winners to take it for the loss of a solitary point.
Nadal had the advantage of serving first in the decider and engineered two break points on the Verdasco service at 4-3 ahead, both saved.
Eventually Nadal's famous persistence finally paid off, but final opponent Federer will certainly be the fresher as they face off again in a major final with the Swiss aiming to tie Peter Sampras' record of 14 grand slam titles.
They last met in a grand slam in the 2008 Wimbledon final with Nadal winning one of the greatest matches in tennis history, 9-7 in the fifth set.
Earlier, Serena Willams warmed up for the women's singles final on Saturday by teaming up with sister Venus to win the doubles title, beating Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama 6-3 6-3.
Williams will be aiming for a 10th grand slam title against Dinara Safina of Russia.
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