Nadal targets Grand Slam 21 with Australian Open final spot
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When the best players in the world arrived in Australia, the only realistic conversation of a 21st The Grand Slam was headed for Novak Djokovic, visa issues permitting.
Quite how Djokovic might have gotten away with it if the Australian authorities hadn’t intervened will remain the great unknown, but Rafael Nadal, for all his glittering past, had done little to suggest he was there. man to take the absolute Grand Slam record ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Now the Spaniard is one game away from achieving the feat after a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win over Matteo Berrettini.
Nadal had to abandon his 2021 season in early August due to a foot injury which last November he and his team feared was on the verge of ending his career.
His return to Abu Dhabi before Christmas was a bad omen, with the 35-year-old struggling with Covid and raising further question marks over his appearance at the Australian Open.
But he won his warm-up event and, in the opening two sets against Berrettini, produced arguably his best tennis of any tournament, giving his Italian opponent barely a chance.
Targeting Berrettini’s backhand, he appeared to be heading for a straight-set victory under the roof as the rain poured down in Melbourne, before Berrettini tried the big shots in the third set to force his return to the game.
It took him over two hours to get a break point on Nadal’s serve and it was fitting that he converted it with his forehand winner.
The feeling that this could force the 25-year-old back into the contest was relatively short-lived. As he pressured Nadal’s serve again in the fourth set, he couldn’t convert it and the Spaniard got the only break after which he served the match.
Then Nadal said: “I started the match playing very well. The first two sets were the best for a long time. He played very good shots. It means a lot to me to be in the final here today. today.
This is his sixth Australian Open final and his first since 2019. His last five final appearances, however, have seen him lose – his only Australian Open title coming in 2009.
To make his 29and Grand Slam final, he said: “I never thought about another chance in 2022. I’m just going to have fun.”
To get to the magic tally of 21, Nadal needs to defeat Daniil Medvedev, who was tremendous in winning the last semi-final 7-6 3-6 6-4 6-1 against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Tsitsipas had played some of his best tennis in the game but let his high standards crumble as fatigue and grit from groundstrokes kicked in.
Despite their parents being close friends, Medvedev and Tsitsipas endured a frosty relationship and the Russian reacted angrily losing the second set, accusing rival Apostolos’ father of illegally coaching his son from the players’ box.
Medvedev’s angry rebuke to referee Jaume Campistol came after he received a code violation for an obscenity. This, however, led to another referee being placed under the players’ box and a subsequent coaching warning to Tsitsipas at the start of the third set.
This coincided with a drop in intensity from the Greek from which he never really recovered.
Referring to his earlier outburst, Medvedev said: “I don’t think the emotions helped me too much. A lot of times I lose a game because of that… you lose too much energy. I’m happy to have managed to refocus for the start of the third set.
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