On a sweltering semifinal Thursday night at the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal gave another free lesson to highly touted rising star, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Already having clobbered Alex de Minaur and Frances Tiafoe, the Greek was thought to be a much more formidable foe. He had just soundly defeated Roger Federer and Roberto Bautista Agut. He had won titles. He had beaten Novak Djokovic before and he nearly took a set off Nadal in the Canadian Open final last summer.
He was going to push Nadal!
Except, that never happened. Not even close.
Nadal, just as he has done all tournament, used that new serve of his to dictate play and free up his baseline game even more, also his return game. No longer is Rafa required to grind out long points. Tonight it was his big serve that set up a quick put away just a few shots later, time and time again.
And the 20-year-old had no solution to stop it. Nadal rolled in dominant fashion, only facing one break point (coming in the last game), to win it 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 in just 1 hour, 46 minutes.
“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.”
Nadal won the last nine games of the match and in the final set held a jaw-dropping 25-8 points advantage.
“When you serve great, then the first ball normally is a little bit easier,” added Nadal. “That’s probably the only reason. I had the determination to make that happen. That’s all.”
Tsitsipas had some success early in the second, hammering forehands and putting away some nice volleys. But he couldn’t really get into any of Nadal’s service games and was outclassed from the baseline.
“Honestly, I have no idea what I can take from that match,” said 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 just couldn’t play better.”
Nadal, who hasn’t dropped a set all event, will now have two days off – like he needs it – before facing the Djokovic-Pouille winner for the title.
“All semifinals are interesting and tough,” Nadal said. “Novak is the favourite now, and he’s been in that position so many times. For Lucas, it’s the first one, but he won an amazing quarterfinal match and is playing so well.
“I always thought that Lucas is one of these players with amazing potential. He can beat everybody when he’s playing well. So let’s see. It’s true that Novak is unbelievable, so for Lucas it will be difficult, but it’s a tennis match – anything can happen.”
Rafa’s into his 25th career Grand Slam final and 5th in Australia. If he wins Sunday, he wins his 18th Slam and becomes the first player in the Open Era (and third in history) to win all four Slams twice!
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