Devastating Nadal Surges Into Australian Open Final
Spanish superstar produces spell-binding exhibition
Nadal, who has won 17 Grand Slam championship trophies, including the 2009 Australian Open, didn’t put a foot wrong against Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals titlist and No. 14 seed, in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 victory over one hour and 45 minutes.
The Spanish superstar, who had beaten Tsitsipas in the finals of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and the Rogers Cup in Toronto last year, booked a place in his 25th major championship final (17-7 record) by winning 49 of his 61 service points and hitting 28 winners. He also won the final nine games.
“I played well, of course,” said Nadal. “I have been playing well during the whole event. Every match, more or less, I think I did a lot of things well. Tonight, was another one. I played solid – with my serve, playing aggressive. Probably the backhand was better today than the rest of the days.”
The 32-year-old Nadal will now prepare to meet World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is chasing a record-breaking seventh Australian Open crown, or first-time major semi-finalist Lucas Pouille of France. Nadal trails Djokovic 25-27 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but leads Pouille 2-1. Nadal, who beat Roger Federer for the 2009 title, also advanced to the final in 2012, losing to Djokovic in the longest men’s Grand Slam final on record at 5 hours 53 minutes, in 2014 (l. to Wawrinka) and 2017 (l. to Federer).
“Of course, Novak is the favourite tomorrow," said Nadal. "He has been in that position a lot of times. For Lucas, it’s the first time. But let's see. It’s a tennis match, and anything can happen.”
Nadal is bidding to become the first man in the Open Era (since April 1968) – and only the third man in history – to win each of the four Grand Slam championship titles twice. Australians Roy Emerson and Rod Laver are the only players to have won each major on two or more occasions.
Nadal was at his aggressive best from the very start, dominating on serve and constantly placing Tsitsipas under pressure. Nadal broke first by rushing the net in the third game and forcing Tsitsipas into error and took a 5-2 lead with a drop shot winner. Minutes later, Nadal wrapped up the 31-minute opener by firing down a serve to Tsitsipas’ backhand, which came back long. The Spanish superstar lost just three service points, all on his second serve, and hit 26 winners.
Nadal, locked-in, maintained his hold over Tsitsipas, who saved three break points at 2-2, 0/40, in the second set courtesy of two forehand winners and a backhand error from the World No. 2. Nadal, holding serve with ease, broke through for a 5-4 advantage after Tsitsipas made three forehand mistakes and in clinching the second set he’d lost just seven of his service points.
Tsitsipas tried new things, mixing up his service placement, coming to the net and using the angles of the court to create an opening, but Nadal was simply too good. As evidenced when the Spaniard broke serve in the first game of the third set, when Tsitsipas responded to Nadal’s groundstroke firepower, but was left motionless when the 2009 champion ripped a backhand crosscourt winner. Nadal showcased great courtcraft throughout the match and lost just eight points in the third set.
“Honestly, I have no idea what I can take from that match,” admitted Tsitsipas. “It's not that I was even close to get to something. I only got six games from that match. I feel very strange. I feel happy with my performance in this tournament, but at the same time I feel disappointed. I feel like I could do a bit better today. I don't know. That's how I felt. But it's a very, very weird feeling. Almost felt like [I] just couldn't play better.”
The 20-year-old Tsitsipas had been attempting to become the third player to beat both Roger Federer (fourth round) and Nadal at the same major. To date, the only players to have defeated both superstars are Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open and Djokovic at the 2011 US Open.