Australian Open: Rafael Nadal to face Daniil Medvedev in Melbourne final

Rafael Nadal moved one win away from a record 21st Grand Slam men’s title after a dominant start enabled him to beat Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in the Australian Open semi-finals.

Seventh seed Berrettini eventually turned the match into a contest, but Nadal completed a 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 win.

The 35-year-old Spaniard is level on 20 major titles with long-time rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Nadal plays Daniil Medvedev, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, in Sunday’s final.

“The first two sets were some of the best I’ve played for a long time,” said Nadal, who won his only Melbourne title in 2009.

“Against a difficult opponent, a great opponent, one of the best of the world, I was able to play I think at a very high level for a long time.

“I had to suffer and I had to fight but it means a lot to be in the final again.”

Nadal’s achievement in reaching a 29th Grand Slam final comes only a few months after he thought a foot injury could end his illustrious career.

Russian second seed Medvedev edged a high-quality battle with Greek fourth seed Tsitsipas, winning 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-4 6-1 in Friday’s second men’s semi-final.

Medvedev, 25, is aiming for his second successive Grand Slam title after winning the maiden major of his career at the US Open in September.

He is also looking to go one step further in Melbourne after losing in last year’s final to Djokovic, who did not play this year after being deported from Australia in a visa row related to him being unvaccinated.

Nadal shows killer instinct at either end of the match

Before the first semi-final there were some doubts about Nadal’s chances, not least because of his injury problems last year.

These centred around the indoor conditions perhaps favouring the powerful Berrettini – severe thunderstorms in Melbourne meant the roof was closed throughout – and how 35-year-old Nadal would have recovered after being “destroyed physically” from a gruelling five-set quarter-final against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.

With the benefit of two full days without a match since Tuesday’s win, Nadal quickly quashed any uncertainty.

Nadal started sharply as he attacked Berrettini’s backhand – considered the weakest part of the 25-year-old Italian’s game – from the outset.

A stream of mistakes came from this side as Berrettini fell 3-0 behind and Nadal appropriately sealed the opening set with a serve to the backhand, which the 2021 Wimbledon finalist returned into the net.

This Berrettini shot continued to break down in the second set, enabling Nadal to take his opening two service games and move into another 3-0 lead.

Head bowed, Berrettini looked unsure how to neutralise Nadal and the other facets of his game were suffering too.

When Nadal sealed the second set after one hour and 25 minutes, Berrettini had already hit 24 unforced errors. His inability to test Nadal – in part because of the Spaniard’s brilliance – had been costly.

Matteo Berrettini reacts during his Australian Open semi-final defeat by Rafael Nadal
Berrettini won 23 straight points from the midway through the third set to when Nadal broke for 5-3 in the fourth

Holding serve at the start of the third set, and putting scoreboard-pressure on Nadal, was imperative for Berrettini.

Once he achieved that, the Italian’s confidence grew and his fearsome forehand began to trouble Nadal more.

Finally he earned his first break points of the match, taking the second for a 5-3 lead with another forehand winner and serving out to love to ensure at least a fourth set.

Both men held serve in the opening seven games but Berrettini letting half a chance slip from 3-3 15-30 with two missed forehands proved crucial.

Berrettini had held to love in five successive service games – but then let Nadal in when it mattered most.

After Nadal missed a first break point with a wide forehand to end an intense 23-shot rally, Berrettini hit a forehand into the net for the third time in the game on the second.

Serving for the match, Nadal started with a double fault but clinched victory when Berrettini put another backhand into the net.

Medvedev settles down to win after outburst

Daniil Medvedev
Medvedev faces Nadal in his fourth Grand Slam final, having lost to the Spaniard in his first – a epic US Open final in 2019

Without Djokovic, Medvedev was seen as the tournament favourite but found Tsitsipas – another tipped to take advantage of the Serb’s absence – in his way of a second successive final.

Tsitsipas, 23, was targeting his maiden Grand Slam title – after losing to Djokovic in last year’s French Open final – and his first final in Melbourne.

The Australian city has a huge Greek population and the vocal support for Tsitsipas is always raucous.

But he came unstuck in the semi-finals for the third time – and Medvedev proved to be his downfall for the second year in a row.

The pair have had a spiky relationship in the past and Medvedev added another layer of drama to the high-quality tennis when he accused Tsitsipas of illegally receiving on-court coaching.

In a rant during the changeover at 5-4 down in the second set, Medvedev demanded umpire Jaume Campistol issue a violation to Tsitsipas for taking instructions from his father and coach Apostolos.

“I don’t think bad emotions help me too much, many times I have lost a match because of this,” Medvedev said.

“You lose energy and concentration. As soon as I did it I regretted it. But I knew I had to refocus, I tried my best and I’m happy for it.”

Source: bbc

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