Nadal Beats Berrettini, Medvedev Outwits Tsitsipas In Australian Open SFs
Rafael Nadal hung on to upend Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 Friday at the Australian Open to reach his sixth final at the first Grand Slam of the season.
Using his forehand-to-backhand attack, Nadal dominated the Italian early on. Off his backhand wing, Berrettini had no answer for Nadal’s heavy forehand, and he struggled on his second serve.
Up two sets in full command, things got tight. Berrettini found a grove and managed to grab a break. And used his serve and improving forehand to force a third. Berrettini was following. The 25-year-old rattled off five consecutive love holds and 23 straight on serve (both streaks began late in the third) to pressure Nadal who was starting feel the tension.
Serving 4-5 in the fourth, Berrettini finally blinked. Four unforced errors out of nowhere sunk Berrettini, and Nadal served it out to reach his 29th career Grand Slam final.
“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.”
Berrettini still has never beaten a Top 10 player in Slam, and he falls to 0-8 against the Big 3.
“It was the first time that I played under the roof,” said Berrettini. “It was different conditions. I struggled. At the beginning I couldn’t really find the rhythm. It took me a while to adapt, but at the same time Rafa was playing really well.
“I don’t think I have to say anything about my tennis in the third and the fourth,” he said. “I think it was a really good fight. I was playing good tennis and he was playing good tennis. I think it was fun to watch, I was having fun playing it.
“The first two sets weren’t what I expected, what I wanted from myself. I wouldn’t say I was flat, but I wasn’t in the right mood, in the right mental mindset, for many reasons. I think for the first time I’m in the semi-finals, against Rafa, it was good that I had a really good reaction. This is the thing that I’m most proud and happy about.”
Nadal, who also won his 500th career hard court match, is now just three sets from No. 21 and a second Career Slam. Quite an effort from someone who was close to retiring a few months ago due to a lingering foot issue.
“It’s amazing, and I’m super happy to be able to compete for the past three weeks at the level that I am doing,” Nadal said. “It’s surprising for me to be able to play at the level that I am playing. Just competing and playing tennis at this high level again, facing the most important players of the world, it’s unbelievable.
“For me, it’s something completely unexpected, so I am super happy. I always try my best. My goal now is to win. I am taking things in a little bit of a different way now. Of course, with the competitive spirit that I have, I can’t go against that. It’s my personal DNA. But in some ways, be able to have the chance to compete at this level, it’s positive energy for me to keep going, because being very honest, for me it is much more important to have the chance to play tennis than win number 21.”
The second semifinal also went four sets with Daniil Medvedev coming out on top 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 to deny Stefanos Tsitsipas for a second straight year in the semifinal.
In a fast-paced first set, Medvedev dominated on his serve but Tsitsipas was just as tough. Tsitsipas had an early lead in the breaker before the Russian won six of the last seven points from 4-1 down.
Tsitsipas would brush it off and break Medvedev to start the second but later lose the break. At 4-all, Tsitsipas would get another break, and then on the changover Medvedev exploded at the chair umpire alleging Tsitsipas was getting coaching.
Tsitsipas wouldn’t take the bit and took the second.
Medvedev, fueled by anger, began adding pace to his shots and serve. He was save two break points to start the set and eventually would break Tsitsipas to take it.
In the fourth, it was all Medvedev who won the last five games of the match.
“Some matches are very even,” Medvedev told the crowd. “I missed some balls at a few moments where I could have got a break and he missed a few at the start of the third set. Then from 5-4 in the third I just found some momentum and started to read his serve and put every ball in. I hit some very important passing shots and his energy went down because of this and my energy went up.”
Tsitsipas falls to 2-7 against his rival and 0-3 in the Australian Open semifinals.
“I played way better than I did last time,” Tsitsipas said. “Last year I was completely cooked and exhausted after that five-set match with Rafa. I wasn’t able to recover the way I wanted to recover, and this year I was really into it from the very first point.
“I felt good with my shots, felt good mentally, I felt good in terms of belief and in terms of feeling that passion in the court. I was very close. The first tie-break was an important one. I feel like I could have won that one. Maybe should have followed a different tactic. But again lesson. I think it would have been a different match winning that first set.
“I have a long season ahead of me, with a lot of opportunities,” he added. “I’m going to try and grab and get the best out of my tennis and get the best out of this experience, so that I can always work towards and help myself improve physically, mentally and improve my game generally. I see today’s performance as a lesson that I can use to move forward.”
Medvedev, who saved a match point in his quarterfinal win over Felix Auger Aliassime, is ready for a rematch with Nadal.
“I am going to play again against one of the greatest and against someone going for their 21st Grand Slam. Grand Slam finals are special and I can remember the final against Rafa at the US Open,” he said. “It was my first final and we played for about five hours. We have played a few matches since then and I am ready.”
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