Nadal vs Berrettini: Two Men on a Mission, Reaching the Australian Open Final

Nadal vs Berrettini: Two Men on a Mission, Reaching the Australian Open Final Photo: TT
Rafael Nadal celebrates victory after his semifinal match at 2019 Australian Open in Melbourne Park. Photo Credit: ID 237165463 © Zhukovsky | Dreamstime.com.

The first semifinal is locked in Melbourne. Seventh seed Matteo Berrettini will face 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal Friday.

On his fifth appearance at the tournament, Matteo Berrettini became the first Italian to reach the men’s semifinals of the Australian Open after overcoming Frenchman Gael Monfils in a memorable 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 6-2 match at the Rod Laver Arena.

In his on-court interview, Berrettini said: “I’m really happy for myself, was another great fight again against Gael. Great match, a lot of emotions. I thought I had him in the third (set), and then I found myself in a fifth, but I really fought hard, and I put everything in the court. That’s what I said to myself, and that’s why I’m really happy.”

The 2019 U.S. Open semifinalist needed five sets to outlast 35-year-old Monfils, who displayed high-quality tennis since day one in Melbourne.

Berrettini, who took a two-sets-to-love lead, would see the World No. 17 producing a remarkable comeback to level up 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, forcing a decider.

I was just focused on winning the match, the Italian added. I had a couple of breakpoints [in the third set], and I couldn’t take them, and tennis is like this. It happened with [Carlos] Alcaraz as well. I was leading, and then they start to play better.”

Put to the test, the Roman native used his powerful forehand and serve to dominate the fifth set in 38 minutes, earning victory after three hours and 48 minutes, advancing into the last four.

The 5-time ATP titlist hit 51 winners (12 aces), winning 74 percent of his first-serve points and 51 with his second, recording 50 unforced errors (2 double faults compared to 51 (7) by the Parisian-born.

Throughout his campaign at Melbourne Park, Berrettini edged American Brandon Nakashima, ranked No. 169, Stefan Kozlov, Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz, World No. 21 Pablo Carreno Busta, and Monfils to book a meeting with Rafael Nadal.

Next, the World No. 7 will face the Melbourne Summer Set champion, who leads their Head2Head series 1-0. In their lone encounter, the “King of Clay” defeated the 2021 Wimbledon finalist at the 2019 U.S. Open semifinal.

An Epic Duel of Lefties: Nadal vs. Shapovalov

In their first clash at a Grand Slam event, a fifth on tour level, the 2009 Australian Open champion fended off Denis Shapovalov, bidding for a place in the last four, earning victory 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 in four hours and eight minutes.

En route to the quarterfinals, the spirited World No. 14 toppled the likes of World No. 3 Alexander Zverev - beat in three sets, and American Reilly Opelka.

Apart from surviving a five-set thriller, six seeded Nadal was challenged by the extreme heat, as temperatures surpassed 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), and stomach issues, which led the 35-year-old to request his physio for treatment after the Canadian sealed the third set 6-4.

Nadal hit two double faults in the sixth game of the third set, handing his rival two break point opportunities, keeping the 22-year-old chances alive while holding a 2-1 advantage.

The players hit back to court, kicking off a fourth set which the 14th seed took on 6-3 in 46 minutes, breaking the Spanish player in the fourth game and saving breakpoints in the ninth, forcing a decisive fifth set.

However, Carlos Moya’s pupil trademark fighting spirit was ready to go nowhere. Dominating his service games, Nadal regrouped to break Shapovalov in the second game and make it through his seventh semifinal at the Australian major.

After an outstanding performance, he commented: “I don’t know, [it] was a little bit of miracle. I was destroyed honestly, physically. But my serve worked well, and for me, every game that I was winning with my serve was a victory. That was my goal, just try to win games with my serve and expect for the chance on the return.”

Further stating: “Being in [the] semifinals means a lot to me against have a victory against a great player after all the things that I went through, so it’s amazing news. I’m super happy.

Across his career, the Spaniard has learned to overcome all sorts of obstacles, on and off-court against the odds.

Last December, the World No. 6 returned to competitive tennis competition at the exhibition event Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. In August, a lingering left foot injury had forced him to end his 2021 season early.

On his return to Spain, the Manacor native tested positive for Covid-19, casting doubts on his appearance at the Australian Summer of Tennis.

But not only did he make it in time to recover and fly to Australia, but he went on to play the warm-up event, Melbourne Summer Set, winning his 89th career singles title after five months outside tour-level competition.

Of course, after eight matches, you feel a little bit more confident, and the things are going a little bit more automatic again. I have been playing well. Of course, after that, I had the thing on court, the physical issue that I was not able to keep moving the proper way for the rest of the match.”

Adding: “But when I was physically well, I think I was playing a little bit better than him. “

Speaking about his next opponent, he outlined: “Matteo, he’s one of the best players of the world since a while already. He’s very solid. I need to play my 100 percent and my highest level if I want to keep having chances to fight, to be competitive, and to try to be in the final.

I am super happy today. For me, this victory is super important in these circumstances, and being able to win [and reach] the semifinals of a Grand Slam after everything is a lot of positive energy for me.”

Early in the second set, Shapovalov grew frustrated, complaining Nadal was given additional time on change of ends, telling the chair umpire Carlos Bernardes, “He just takes so long, I was ready to serve.”

The unfortunate incident did not shadow the fascinating match played by the fierce contenders.

The other semifinal will feature world number two, Daniil Medvedev, against Greece’s number one racquet Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Cecilia demartini
Sports Pundit staff writer @ceci_2812
Cecilia is a writer and a journalist passionate about sports, particularly motorsport, tennis, and soccer

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