Rafael Nadal Parera will fight this Sunday from 9:00 am –in Spain– for being the best tennis player of all time. What seemed like a utopia just a few weeks ago, with the Spaniard out due to a chronic injury that even threatened his retirement, has turned into a comeback typical of an athlete from another planet who is already in the final of the Open from Australia. His penultimate victim, Matteo Berrettini , paid against the most complete Nadal in a long time, in an overwhelming version during the first two sets and punctual in the fourth and final, which allows him to dream of a final in which the only thing left to know is the Rafa’s rival in the battle of battles. It will be Medvedev , the number one contender, or Tsitsipas , his latest executioner in Melbourne.
It was the best match (6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3) of a Nadal who had been hovering around the remarkable high and bordering on the outstanding, a note that he overcame against Berrettini to win a number of honors during the first hour and a half meeting. Playing at will, regardless of the conditions, indoors due to the rain that was getting worse in Melbourne , or the intimidating trajectory with which his rival arrived at the match, Rafa aligned the stars and achieved his best day in mobility and forehand, the two keys to his game coupled with a mindset, bombproof, that was more overwhelming than ever with the sky as the limit.
This happened for two sets before the awakening of Berrettini , drugged until then by the magnitude of Nadal but who would get up to force the fourth set, where the Balearic genius, after four games without adding a single point, would force the fight at the moment key and would break to raise his arms towards the final.
We arrived at the second Friday of competition in Australia and when we opened our eyes from Spain we found ourselves with the first big news of the day. Rafa Nadal , the idol hit by injuries, had risen to sneak into a new Grand Slam semifinal. The matches, from the debut against Giron to the quarterfinals against Shapovalov , had been a mix between a test bench and a host of insults with which to reach the penultimate match, against an elite server who had on the backhand – his forehand is capitalized – the point on which to focus the path to the end.
Nadal , tennis strategist, had the weapons to surpass the shield of the transalpine and did not take a minute to start doing it. At first, after tying his service in a complicated game, Berrettini , the server, lost his main weapon to give him the first advantage on which to build the aspiring to history, the winner of 20 Grand Slams, who began to show that It was a special day in Melbourne.
Nadal starts the exhibition
Berrettini ‘s forehand was practically unprecedented for two reasons. The first, with his serve, did not reach enough percentages of firsts to dominate the exchange. The second, Rafa was levitating on the track from the first moment. Hardly failing, the Spaniard shot from the right to the backhand of the Italian one, another, another and again until minimizing his options at each point.
This is how the games went because both serves were imposed and Nadal was worth it to win the set. Berrettini could not do anything and from his 195 centimeters tall he looked tiny compared to the veteran Rafael, who in less than three quarters of an hour and although sweating, with hardly any disheveled hair, closed the first quarter with a very high note and with that look that we have seen so many times in his big games.
This starts out WONDERFUL! 🤩
The first set is for @RafaelNadal 💪
Follow the match on #E1 and on the App with @alvarobenitolb and @AlexCorretja74#LaCasaDelTenis #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/6sP6C1GEtt
– Eurosport.es (@Eurosport_ES) January 28, 2022
The most faithful, practically adventurers, were already awake following the evolutions of their idol, but the average population had not even threatened to open their eyes on Friday morning. Rafa hadn’t planned to wait for them. His level, very high in the first set, rose two points in the second, launched to repeat strategy and openly break Berrettini ‘s serve again to welcome the Italian to the second set.
Berrettini awakens from his lethargy
He was the best Nadal in a long time, beyond his injury. The best Nadal , without more to add. The result of the level shown was a new partial that forced us to go from forced caution to sleep with a donut in the second partial. It was not like that because Berrettini is, in addition to a great player, an immense server, and he put the ground in between to avoid humiliation. As far as the winner of the set was concerned, he was seen for judgment and it was for the number six seed of the Open .
The third set should be the acid test for a Nadal who has already failed there in two indicated precedents. The first and most recent, the quarterfinals against Shapovalov , where a match that had been tied up in a scenario similar to that experienced with Berrettini was greatly complicated. The second, the quarterfinals of 2021, in which he ended up coming back from Tsitsipas . The partial began with changes and Matteo kept his serve for the first time. It wasn’t bad news per se , but it would be the beginning of a change in the game.
With nothing left to lose, Berrettini let go of the lock and went on to let go. First with the serve, immediately followed by the forehand, mortal from the bottom, and finally with the backhand. Nadal , for his part, was still active with his serve and with certain options to the return that, in this part, he could not take advantage of as in the previous ones. It was a much more closed encounter and one that would end up opening up, in this case in favor of the Italian.
With a favorable 4-3, Berrettini took advantage of all the factors in a game that began with a very clear mistake by Nadal , followed with a Rafa-style kick from the Italian and ended with a new winning forehand that confirmed the curse of the Balearic Islands with the third sets in Australia . Without leaving the slightest gap, Matteo would score the third set to extend a match that was no longer so clear on Nadal ‘s side.
It’s a sixth #AusOpen final for @RafaelNadal 🙌
He outlasts Matteo Berrettini in a 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 thriller 👏 #AusOpen · #AO2022
🎥: @wwos · @espn · @eurosport · @wowowtennis pic.twitter.com/UIbtfGbKvq
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 28, 2022
The best Nadal goes to the final
Nobody said it was going to be easy and although the stratospheric level shown by Nadal in the first two sets could lead to deception, in front of the manacorí was one of the best tennis players in the world. From the annulment to being unleashed, Berrettini gained confidence and began to play like the angels with the punch as the best virtue. Not much more was needed on serve to win up to three loveless games, while Rafa, who had learned from his past mistakes, raised his game again to maintain parity. It was the best moment of the game, altogether.
The eventual non-appearance of Rafa at the rest became a mental battle for Berrettini , who at the key moment saw how the Spaniard, several meters from the line in the rest as a notable change of strategy, went on to fight him with a change of heights. Thus, from nothing to almost everything with the first break point of the fourth set, which Nadal could not finish after the best exchange of the match. However, Berrettini ‘s forehand had abandoned him in precision and two consecutive failures gave the decisive break to the Spaniard, the winner of 20 Grand Slams , who after two hours and 55 minutes of play became a finalist and contender for the all-time high Sunday at the Australian Open.