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Nadal beats Berrettini to return to Australian Open final

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Nadal beats Berrettini to return to 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.

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knee surgery and nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic was expelled on the eve of the tournament after his visa was revoked by the Australian government and his appeal was dismissed .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 an epic final in 2012 to Djokovic and another five-set marathon against Federer in 2017.

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.”

On Sunday, Nadal will face the winner of Friday’s second semi-final between No.2 Daniil Medvedev and No.4 Stefanos Tsitsipas. Nadal has a winning record against the two younger men and now has a 2-0 record against Berrettini, the solid 25-year-old Italian who has a big serve and heavy forehand and lots of charisma, but also has a backhand relatively weak that Nadal repeatedly exploited.

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