Unexpectedly, although the best can always be expected from him, Rafa Nadal plays this Friday (not before 4:30 Spanish time, Eurosport) the semifinals of the Australian Open for the seventh time. The 35-year-old Balearic, who had not competed in an official match for almost six months when he played and won the ATP 250 in Melbourne, is measured to Matteo Berrettini (executioner of Carlos Alcaraz and Pablo Carreño in this same edition), whom he defeated in the same round of the 2019 US Open, their only previous confrontation.
The sensations, despite that heat stroke that made the quarterfinal match against Shapovalov very difficult for him, could not be better, especially if you take into account where and how Nadal comes from, with a recent COVID infection involved. The duel will take place in the early afternoon in Melbourne, in conditions that favor the Spaniard (“The ball runs more during the day and weighs less,” he explains), although the forecasts point to a 100% chance of rain that day in the capital of Victoria, so the roof of the Rod Laver Arena would be closed and it would be played under cover. Bad for Rafa, who won five of the six semi-finals he played at the Oceanic Grand Slam, with only one loss in the 2008 edition against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. However, a few days ago against Karen Khachanov he showed that he could perform at a high level in the dark and even at night.
Berrettini, a 25-year-old Italian and seventh player in the world, has his best weapons in serving and driving. He is the leader in aces of the four tennis players who are still in contention in the tournament with 92, although they have broken his serve nine times, while Nadal has only lost it four times. “It’s a great opportunity again for me. I saw him so many times in this tournament and others, cheering him on, than playing him on the Rod Laver in the Australian Open semi-finals. It’s something I dreamed of when I was a child. That’s it, I’ve said it. But I want to win this match. I know I can do it. It will be very difficult. But I am in the semifinals in a Grand Slam for the third time and I want to go even further”, assures the Roman titan of 1.96.
The manacorí respects him: “He’s been one of the best players in the world for a while. Very solid. I need to play at 100% and at the highest level if I want to continue to have opportunities to fight, be competitive and try to be in the final.” No one doubts that, starting with his coach, Carlos Moyà: “Nadal always comes back and always goes to war. You have the letter that he is Rafa”, he said in the big game from COPE. And he added: “He lost four kilos after the game, the dehydration was great. It usually suffers in those conditions. He had done all the right things, so we didn’t expect what was going to happen at an hour and a half into the game. It was winning an entire set against a player who was being better than him. In the end Shapovalov’s bad game and Rafa’s mental strength came together.” “The key is that he will have an extra day that will come in handy for recovery,” he celebrated.
On Wednesday, the winner of twenty majors did a bit of stationary biking and went out to rally for only twenty minutes. This Thursday he returned to training normally to prepare for a match against Berrettini that could catapult him to a new opportunity to add the 21st title and lead that battle he is waging against Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Australian Open Men’s Draw.