Considering the manner in which Stedanos Tsitsipas removed Roger Federer from the Australian Open, the Greeks clash with Rafa Nadal for a place in the final at Melbourne, was expected to generate fireworks.
"I think I have played very well every day. After a lot of months without playing is probably this court, this crowd it gives me that unbelievable energy Rafa Nadal
Whether Nadal had taken note of that extraordinary win and had geared himself up more than usual, we will never know but he arrived in bullish mood and never allowed the fast rising 20-year-old from making much of an impression on his heavy game.
Nadal continued his run through this year’s field to make the final without dropping a set and now awaits the winner of the other semi between the world number one Novak Djokovic and his surprise opponent, Lucas Pouille of France, which is due to be played tomorrow.
Nadal came through 6-2 6-4 6-0 after one-hour 46-minutes, to end the Greek’s fairytale run at the first grand slam of the season. He was ruthless and extended his run of not even dropping his serve to an astonishing 63 staright games.
“It’s been a great match, a great tournament,” Nadal said after his breath-taking display of dominating tennis.
“I think I have played very well every day. After a lot of months without playing is probably this court, this crowd it gives me that unbelievable energy.”
Nadal’s win put him into his fifth Australian Open final and keeps him on course to become the first man to win all four Grand Slams twice in the Open era if he can add on Sunday, to his sole Melbourne Park crown of 2009.
Tsitsipas, in just his second Australian Open and seventh appearance at a Grand Slam, was looking to become the first Greek player – man or woman — to reach a final in a major.
“He has everything to become a multi-Grand Slam champion,” Nadal said of the young Greek, who enjoyed a breakthrough 2018, winning the ATP Tour NextGen Finals.
“When at that age he is in the semi-finals that says a lot of good things about him and winning the matches that he won already, so, yeah, I hope to face him in important rounds in the next couple of years, hopefully.”
Nadal, who shattered the dreams of two other NextGen stars 19-year-old Alex de Minaur and 21-year-old Frances Tiafoe was quick to make his mark on his latest opponent
At 1-1 a rasping double-handed backhand and a forehand winner gave him a first break point which the Spaniard duly converted.
Tstsipas tried to respond by powering his way out of the trouble with huge serves but with two double faults at 4-2 down and some ill-advised shots he had to accept falling behind further and losing the set after just 31-minutes.
Nadal’s next breakthrough came at 2-all in the second when Nadal struck with an incredible shot, striking the ball on the run from virtually behind the umpire’s chair to pull it round the net post into the court. The shot earned him three breakpoints.
Surprisingly Nadal didn’t convert any of them as Tsitsipas finally found his serve at what was a crucial moment to eventually hold with an ace.
The break did come at 4-all and inevitably, Nadal took and served out for a two-sets to love lead after 75-minutes of play.
That must have broken the young Greek’s spirit for Nadal then basically ran away with the third by delivering a bagel on the now discomfited 20-year-old from Athens to claim his allotted place in the final. It took him just another 31-minutes to deliver that final humiliation.
A shell-shocked Tsitsipas said he had been ’surprised’ by the second seeds performance and admitted that he struggled to find an answer. The fact that Roger Federer had beaten him on 15 occasions perplexed him. “I’m just trying to think how Federer beat him so… Similar game style like me,” he said during his post-match press conference. “I’m trying to understand. I mean, I don’t want to lose to Rafa 10 times.
“Yeah, he did surprise me. His serve, he’s not the biggest server on tour, has a pretty average serve. But it’s annoying that I didn’t get close to break him at all.
“He’s just very aggressive from the baseline. That’s pretty much it. I mean, I don’t know. I really can’t think of something positive on that match.
“Probably the second set, which was the one that I got closer to. The rest, it kind of felt like in a way it wasn’t tennis so much like the other matches that I played. It felt like a different dimension of tennis completely.
“He gives you no rhythm. He plays just a different game style than the rest of the players. He has this, I don’t know, talent that no other player has. I’ve never seen a player have this. He makes you play bad. I don’t know. I would call that a talent.”
Hi next opponent, whoever he is in Sunday’ final, will no doubt be aware that he will have to have his ‘A’ game working!