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Nadal targets Grand Slam 21 with Australian Open final spot

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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.

AFP via Getty Images

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.

Reuters

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.

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