After 11 days or so of battle, we have a final four in the men’s field at the Australian Open.
The all-Top 10 semifinal is nothing terribly surprising. There’s no Aslan Karatsev, or Lucas Pouille or Hyeong Chung, etc, crashing the party. With Daniil Medvedev, Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini, it’s all chalk.
When Novak Djokovic got deported, Berrettini became the man in that quarter and he took advantage.
Tsitsipas’s elbow was a real concern before the start of the tournament, but the Greek appears to be 100% and he never looked better Tuesday night in dusting off the talented Italian Jannik Sinner.
Nadal’s had a good draw (Alexander Zverev’s surrender helped!), and the good fortune of getting two days off after that roller coaster against Denis Shapovalov — sorry, Denis, winning Slams does come with benefits, that’s on you.
And then Medvedev has looked the part of the favorite. He shrugged off that match point against Felix Auger-Aliassime with a bomb serve. He’s so relaxed and unstressed in those post-match interviews.
So this semifinal sets up for a great weekend of tennis Down Under. To my picks.
RAFAEL NADAL v MATTEO BERRETTINI
Ten years younger, Berrettini is stronger, should be fresher and has the bigger game and better on the cement. He should win! But the burly Italian doesn’t have the results.
Other than a couple victories over Gael Monfils, he doesn’t have that signature win in a Slam like Tsitsipas, Medvedev and even Thiem have. A win over Nadal would be it.
Rafa rolled him in the 2019 US Open semifinals when Berrettini also had just won a 5-setter over Monfils.
The 25-year-old Berrettini is better now. More experienced, more hardened and hopefully physically stronger, though he’s still prone to injury.
Nadal isn’t what he used to be. Now 35, he admitted to being tired(!!!) after his win over Shapovalov. He admitted to struggling in the heat. And he had something going on with his stomach.
But Nadal is still a champion. He’s got a lot on the line this weekend — two wins from 21 and another Career Slam — and the two days off is massive.
Both guys should be rested and recovered from their 5-setters, so that shouldn’t be an issue.
For Nadal, if he connects with his serve and forehand, and get the big guy on the run, he’ll be in good shape.
For Berrettini, he has to be bombing that serve, otherwise he’ll be in trouble.
I think Berrettini has the game, but mentally he hasn’t shown that higher level. So with that, I think gets a set, but no more.
The Pick: Rafael Nadal in 4
DANIIL MEDVEDEV v STEFANOS TSITSIPAS
Medvedev saved a match point, Tsitsipas was in a war against Taylor Fritz. So both guys have been pushed, though like I said the Greek is coming off a tremendously clean performance over Sinner. So that helps his case.
Medvedev has won 6 of 8 including a convincing win in this semifinal round at the Australian Open last year.
And he has the edge here.
Medvedev looks like he having so much fun out there. Playing freely and with joy. And he feeds off the crowd, the opponent and the moment.
Meanwhile, Tsitsipas seems to be full of tension and angst. He’s an incredible ball striker and all-around, more talented than Medvedev. However, he doesn’t have that same freedom.
On court, this is an offense (Tsitsipas) v defense (Medvedev) match, but I just like the Russian’s attitude and toughness. And he’ll do something that will get into Tsitsipas’s head (he’s probably already in there, actually). Plus, that experience of having already won that first Slam and the freedom with that weight gone, tips the scale in favor of Medvedev.
That said, if Tsitsipas plays like he did against Sinner, he could very well get the upset. That’s if he’s still got that taste from that French Open final collapse out of his mouth. I doubt it.
So, Steph gets close, but Medvedev is too tough in the end.
The Pick: Medvedev in 5
The men’s semifinals begin with a day match at 10:30pm EST and the night match at 3:30am.
FRIDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena
Day session – From noon
Mixed Doubles Final
J. Fourlis/J. Kubler WC v K. Mladenovic/I. Dodig 5
Day session – Not before 2:30pm
M. Berrettini 7 v R. Nadal 6
Night session – From 7:30pm
S. Tsitsipas 4 v D. Medvedev 2
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Nadal looking good so far tonight against Berrettini.
January 28th, 2022 at 12:18 am