One step away from being the greatest

“For me it means a lot to be in the final here again,” said Rafa Nadal moments after beating Matteo Berrettini in four sets (6-3, 6-2, 3-6 and 6-3) and 2h55. In a Rod Laver Arena with the roof closed due to the storm that hit Melbourne in the early afternoon, the performance of the Spaniard was almost a perfect storm that qualified him for the sixth time for the Australian Open title match (Sunday , 9:30, Eurosport). He is now just one win away from lifting his 21st Grand Slam trophy, with which he would break the tie at 20 with Djokovic, who would probably have been his opponent in this round had he not been deported for his refusal to vaccinate, and Federer . His rival will be the Russian Daniil Medvedev, whom he dominates 3-1 head-to-head and who could beat the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas (7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4 and 6-1 in 2h30) .

Rafa’s approach, carefully rehearsed in the previous training sessions, was great and He took the 25-year-old Italian, 1.96 and 7 in the world, off the court for much of the match, with many cross shots to the sides, so that Matteo could not take the center and attack with his powerful right. In addition, rest near the line and thus came his breaks. Only the Roman’s inspiration with the serve from 3-2 in the third set to 3-5 in the fourth, an interval in which he won 23 points in a row with his service, made the match win in time and in suspense, but the Spaniard He always had it under control. The last break before closing the victory, which included a goal with a 23-shot exchange, showed Nadal’s mental strength, who pushed Berrettini back with long and high returns from far away (“To change the visual aspect”, later revealed), and he moved it restlessly waiting for the miss or the moment to deal a winning blow to an opponent who does not find the key to winning a top-10 in majors. His streak rises to 0-7. He had already lost against the Balearic at the same heights in the US Open 2019.

The titan from Manacor is already the sixth player of all time who has reached the most finals in the tournament, after Djokovic (9) and Bromwich, Crawford, Emerson and Federer (7). It is his 29th Grand Slam final, which leaves him closer to the leaders in that section, Djokovic and Federer (31). He achieves this after having won six of his seven semifinals in Australia (29-7 in majors) and winning one of the top ten in the standings there for the first time since 2017, when he defeated Monfils (6th) in the second round and with Raonic (3rd) in quarters. He is also the fourth oldest (35 years and 241 days) of the Open Era to reach a Slam final after Rosewall (6 being older than him), Federer (3) and Mal Anderson (finalist in Melbourne in 1972, with 36 and 306). With this, he adds nine finals over the age of 30 in the Open Era, second after Djokovic (10). All these numbers serve to demonstrate the greatness of a tennis player who has reaped these achievements despite having suffered long periods of inactivity due to injuries, the last of them, five months, last year.

champion solution

It was not easy in conditions that did not favor him, under cover and with a certain cold due to the air conditioning, to overcome an opponent like Berrettini, a puncher and with a good hand near the net, who shone in the only break he could sign up for, but which helped him win a set from Nadal and add a little bit of nerves that he had not felt in the first two sets. The multi-champion lowered his head and went about his business, waiting for his opportunity to come. “There are times when you have to resist,” he explained later. He took it and now he is one step away from that historical glory that he usually elegantly avoids when asked. But the fact is that he had never been as close as now to the famous 21.

Australian Open Men’s Draw.

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