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28 Jan, 2022 06:56

Nadal wins Melbourne semifinal to set up chance of record Grand Slam

Rafael Nadal booked a place in the Australian Open final with victory over Matteo Berrettini
Nadal wins Melbourne semifinal to set up chance of record Grand Slam

Rafael Nadal is one win away from a record 21st Grand Slam title after the Spaniard beat Matteo Berrettini in four sets in their Australian Open semifinal.  

Nadal eased past the disappointing Italian 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 to move into a sixth Melbourne final of his career.

The 35-year-old has lost on four of those past five occasions – including twice to Novak Djokovic – but will hope to end that hoodoo and can clinch what would be a second Australian Open title to add to the one he picked up in 2009.

Should he do so, Nadal will one move ahead of great rivals Djokovic and Roger Federer in the all-time Grand Slam standings – something which had seemed implausible at the turn of the year as the Spanish icon made a comeback from a longstanding foot injury and also saw his preparations disrupted by a Covid infection.

But seeded sixth, Nadal has found form and fitness when it counts in Australia, battling past Canadian youngster Denis Shapovalov in a five-set quarterfinal and making lighter work of the 25-year-old Berrettini at Rod Laver Arena on Friday.

Nadal will now wait to see who he faces in Sunday’s final as Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev plays fourth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in their last-four meeting later on Friday.  

Just one of Nadal’s 20 Grand Slam crowns has come Down Under, with Melbourne Park being a far happier stomping ground for nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic down the years.

But the Serb’s absence this year following his unsavory deportation saga has handed Nadal the chance of what many considered an unlikely title.

A Covid infection after playing an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi in December – his first action in five months after a lingering foot injury – had complicated his hopes of playing in Australia.

But Nadal arrived Down Under and remains unbeaten in 2022, winning the Melbourne Summer Set title on his competitive return earlier in January, and now winning six times to earn a place in the Australian Open final.

“For me it’s all about the Australian Open,” Nadal said of his shot at a historic 21st Major after appearing tearful at the conclusion of his match with Berrettini. 

“It’s an amazing event, I have been a little unlucky with my injuries... I was close a couple of times and I feel very lucky that I won in 2009.

“But I never thought about another chance in 2022, but I try to enjoy the victory today and then afterwards I just try to do my best.”

All eyes will now turn to Friday’s second semifinal, where US Open champion and last year’s beaten Melbourne finalist Daniil Medvedev meets Greek star Tsitsipas, who looked impressive in his quarterfinal win against Jannik Sinner.