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Nadal and Medvedev will take part in the Australian Open final

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Nadal and Medvedev will take part in the Australian Open final

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MELBOURNE, Australia —Rafael Nadal moved within a game of a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title by beating Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 , in the semi-finals of the Australian. Open.

The No. 6 seed Nadal will face the No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final.

Medvedev also won in four sets on Friday, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, but his victory was considerably more tumultuous than Nadal’s. after losing his serve in the ninth game of the second set and receiving a code violation for visible obscenity, Medvedev angrily yelled at chair umpire Jaume Campistol for most of the substitution because he believed Tsitsipas’ father was coaching illegally his son from the players box.

“Are you stupid? His dad can talk about all the points?” Medvedev said from his chair shouting ‘Look at me!’ at the Spanish official as Campistol turned his head towards the court in an attempt to defuse the situation.

It was an extraordinary outburst, and when Tsitsipas finally received a practice warning early in the fourth set, he didn’t win another game as Medvedev sped through to the end.

“Many times I lose the game because of this,” Medvedev said of his tantrum. “Losing focus and too much energy, so as soon as I did that I thought it was a big mistake.”

Tsitsipas smiled when asked about the outburst after the game.

“It sure is funny,” he said. “I don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff. Players like to do things like this to mentally unsettle you.

Tsitsipas, who has received several coaching violations over the past seasons, said he was not coaching on Friday even though he thinks it should be allowed in men’s tennis. “I can’t hear a thing when I’m playing and the crowd is so loud at every point,” he said. “You have to have super hearing to be able to hear what your trainer is saying.”

But Medvedev, who could be fined after the match for his behavior, was able to refocus and take complete control of the semi-final. Sunday’s duel with Nadal will be a rematch of the grueling 2019 US Open final which Nadal won in five sets.

Nadal, the 35-year-old Spanish star, is tied with longtime rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the men’s record.

But neither Federer nor Djokovic took part in this year’s tournament. Federer is still recovering from knee surgery and nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic was expelled on the eve of the tournament after his visa was revoked by the Australian government and his appeal was dismissed .

Nadal, the only member of the Big Three in Melbourne, has carried the torch surprisingly well after missing most of the second half of the 2021 season with a chronic foot problem which he believes is career-threatening. When he returned to action in late December for an exhibition in Abu Dhabi, he contracted Covid-19 and developed symptoms at his home in Mallorca, Spain, before making the long trip to Australia.

But he won a warm-up tournament at Melbourne Park before the main event and has now swept through six more matches to reach his sixth and most unexpected Australian Open final.

He has only won this title once, beating Federer for the title in 2009. Since then he has experienced a lot of tennis heartache at the Rod Laver Arena: losing a final five hours and 53 minutes in 2012 against Djokovic and another marathon. to Federer in 2017 despite leading 3-1 in the fifth set.

Now he has a chance to stand out.

“For me it’s all about the Australian Open first and foremost,” he said when asked about the prospect of winning No.21. win in 2009, but I never thought of another chance in 2022.”

Nadal is now 2-0 against Berrettini, the 25-year-old Italian who has big serve and a heavy forehand and a lot of charisma, but also has a relatively weak backhand that Nadal has exploited on several occasions.

Djokovic did the same when he beat Berrettini in the Wimbledon final last year, and for the first two hours of Friday’s match Berrettini looked frustrated and increasingly desperate as Nadal held him down. off-balance and out of sorts with a barrage of sharp sliced ​​serves and high-bouncing forehands.

“I think I started the game well,” Nadal said. “The first two sets are the best for a long time.”

Berrettini had no break points on Nadal’s serve until the eighth game of the third set, but with Nadal serving at 3-4, Berrettini sprinted to his right and hit a forehand that seemed to surprise both men. Nadal was soon serving at 0-40 and two points later Berrettini was able to break it for the first time, slapping a forehand winner.

He then served the third set, baring his teeth at his support team as he strutted past Nadal to his chair before the fourth set.

“He’s a very solid player, very dangerous,” Nadal said. “And in the third, I knew at some point he was going to go for it. I didn’t play a good game with my serve at 3-4, but he played some really good shots. The pass down the line was incredible.

But the patterns of play were still in Nadal’s favor as he continued to focus his attacks on Berrettini’s backhand. The Italian hit a two-handed winner to make it 15-30 on Nadal’s serve in the opener of the fourth set, but Nadal won a cat-and-mouse exchange on the next point as Berrettini missed a backhand shot on a good. amortized.

Although Berrettini continued to shove and tear his forehands, he could not sustain his comeback, losing his serve in game eight of what turned out to be the final set.

“We have to suffer and we have to fight,” Nadal said, summing up his philosophy over his nearly 20-year career. “It’s the only way I’m where I am today. Honestly, it means a lot to me to be in the final here again.

Federer and Djokovic both aimed for No.21 in a Grand Slam final and missed. Federer had two match points on his serve against Djokovic in the 2019 Wimbledon final and failed to convert. Djokovic faced Medvedev in the US Open final last year and lost in straight sets.

Now it’s Nadal’s turn, although he continues to say that finishing ahead of Federer and Nadal in the Grand Slam chase is not his obsession or his priority.

“I’ll sleep just as well after I retire whether it happens or not,” he once said in an interview.

But a second Australian Open title would certainly be welcome. He is the fifth oldest man to reach the singles final here in the Open era and like Federer, who was 35 when he won in 2017, Nadal is coming back from an injury layoff and playing with freedom and expectations lower than usual.

He had the stamina and the desire to hold off Denis Shapovalov in a five-set quarterfinal in the heat. After two days to recuperate, he had the skill and precision to hold off Berrettini under a closed roof on Friday with the pouring rain over Melbourne during the game.

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