SportRafa Nadal, before his other wall in Australia

Rafa Nadal, before his other wall in Australia

Rafa Nadal will seek the ticket to the Australian Open final this Friday against Matteo Berrettini, number 7 in the ATP. The Spaniard is two steps away from glory, but to do so he must put an end to a negative statistic that he maintains in Melbourne. Since 2017, Nadal has not beaten any player in the top ten of the circuit on ‘aussie’ soil. The Italian, in his third Grand Slam semifinal, is his next challenge and a rival he has already beaten in the only precedent between the two.

“It has been an exercise in survival, in both mental and physical endurance. I have tried to stay alive, in some way, and in the end a game that seemed impossible has been carried out”. With these words Rafa Nadal expressed how he came back to life against Denis Shapovalov in a match that the Canadian forced until the fifth set and in which the Spaniard suffered stomach problems. One more chapter in the wide repertoire of matches in which Nadal has been epic and that also allowed him to get rid of the slab of the quarterfinals, a round in which he had fallen in his last two appearances in Melbourne.

Nadal ‘s long career is littered with uphill moments in the form of injuries that have slowed his pace on multiple occasions. The most successful Spanish tennis player in history, however, has always found a way to get up and rise again, looking for solutions to every problem. This beginning of 2022 is not being different. “For months I doubted if I was going to be able to compete again,” Nadal confessed in the run-up to this Australian Open, a few words he uttered with his first title of the season in his hands.

Step by step, Nadal has been advancing in the Australian Open until returning to the semifinal, a round in which he will have to break down another of his walls: beat a top-10 in the Australian Grand Slam. Berrettini, number 7 in the ATP , is his next rival, he has eliminated two Spaniards – Carlos Alcaraz and Pablo Carreño- and has declared that he sees himself with the possibility of beating Nadal. The Italian is confident in his possibilities and in a statistic that works in his favor and that is that the man from Manacor has not won a top 10 at the Rod Laver Arena since he did it against Milos Raonic in 2017.

Of the 15 defeats that Rafa Nadal has had in Melbourne since he participated for the first time in 2003, on 11 occasions his executioners were a tennis player among the top ten on the circuit at that time. A fact that is not surprising given that it is normal for the tennis players with the highest ranking to be able to face Nadal, but what is significant is that of the total number of times that a top-10 has been measured, the numbers do not smile at the Balearic Islands.

7 wins versus 11 losses

Of all the times that Rafa Nadal has faced a player in the top ten in the ranking in Melbourne, a total of 18, the Spaniard has only advanced -or won the title, as in 2009- seven times. The remaining eleven were taken by the rival: Tsitsipas, Thiem, Djokovic, Cilic, Berdych, Wawrinka or David Ferrer, among them.

His last wins in Melbourne against top 10 players came in 2017 against Gael Monfils , then sixth, in the round of 16 and Milos Raonic, third, in the quarter-finals. However, that year he was deprived of the title by Federer, who, on the other hand, was far from the top positions in the ranking. The last four matches against the top 10 in Melbourne ended in defeat for Manacor.

However, the optimism accompanies not only the level that Nadal is offering in Melbourne, going over tough rivals like Shapovalov or Khachanov before, and for having already beaten Berrettini – in the semifinals of the 2019 US Open -, but also by the evolution of Spanish in situations of this type.

Although in 2020, throughout the circuit, Nadal had a negative record in his duels against players among the top ten – five losses for three wins-, already last season the Balearic managed to leave the balance even in his eight duels against players of that condition. On Friday, in the semifinal, Nadal has one more wall to knock down on his path to tennis history.

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