Nadal Reaches AO Final, Verge Of Grand Slam History

Spaniard captures 500th hardcourt win of career

It’s been a long, sometimes painful road, but Rafael Nadal stays on course for Grand Slam title number 21.

The Spaniard is one match away from becoming the greatest major champion in history after defeating Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 Friday to reach the Australian Open final.

An emotional Nadal was keen to put things into perspective after the win, reflecting on his journey to yet another Grand Slam championship match after struggling with a foot injury for the second half of the 2021 season.

“A month and a half ago I didn’t know if I would be able to play tennis,” the Spaniard said in his post-match on-court interview. “So it doesn’t matter, I just wanted to enjoy it and try my best.”

Nadal beat Berrettini in straight-sets in the 2019 US Open semi-finals, their only previous meeting. The Spaniard would have been happy with something similar on Rod Laver Arena, having admitted he felt ‘completely destroyed’ after his brutal five-set quarter-final encounter with Denis Shapovalov.

Meanwhile Berrettini’s quarter-final win over Gael Monfils made him the first Italian man to reach the Australian Open semi-finals, but he is still seeking his first win over a Top 10 player at a Grand Slam.

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Nadal raced into a two-set lead early, frequently taking up a position inside the baseline during longer rallies to pin his opponent deep in the court with a barrage of topspin forehands to the Berrettini backhand.

The tactic earned Nadal early breaks in sets one and two, the World No. 7 getting few opportunities to gain any sort of foothold in his third major semi-final.

Berrettini was finally able to settle into some sort of rhythm, at one point winning 23 consecutive points on serve as he struck back to force a fourth set. Nadal stayed solid to seal victory, however, avoiding a similar ordeal to his clash with Shapovalov. It was the 500th hard-court match win of Nadal’s career as he offered up just two break points in the match and made just 19 unforced errors across the four sets.

“I started the match playing great,” said Nadal. “The first two sets were two of the best for a long time. I know how good Matteo is, he’s a very solid player, very dangerous. In the third I knew at some point he was going to go for his shots. We needed to suffer, we needed to fight, we fought again and that’s the only way to be where I am today. It means a lot to me to be in the final again here.”

As well as becoming the first man to 21 Grand Slam titles, lifting the trophy in Melbourne would make Nadal the second man (after World No. 1 Novak Djokovic) in the Open Era to win all four Grand Slams twice. Nadal was keen to treat Sunday’s match as he would any other major final, however.

“For me it’s all about the Australian Open, more than anything else,” said Nadal. “It’s just an amazing event. I feel very lucky that I won once [here] in my career, 2009, but I never thought about another chance in 2022, so I’ll just try to enjoy the victory today and then after tomorrow I’ll prepare my best.”

Standing between Nadal and his historic achievement will be the winner of the other semi-final between second seed Daniil Medvedev and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. Nadal has positive ATP Head2Head records against both, leading Russian World No. 2 Medvedev 3-1 and Greek World No. 4 Tsitsipas 7-2.

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