Melbourne: Rafael Nadal is now within one win of a record 21st Grand Slam title.
The 35-year-old Spaniard reached the final of the Australian Open for the sixth time on Friday with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Matteo Berrettini.
Nadal arrived in Australia not knowing how long he would last after months of tour recovering from injuries and then a bout of COVID-19. He won a title at a tune-up tournament and has now won six matches at the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.
One more and he breaks the record of 20 majors he shared with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. He also becomes only the fourth man in history to win all four Grand Slam titles at least twice.
In Sunday’s championship game, he will face the winner of the later semifinal between US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Nadal’s win over Berrettini, under a closed roof at the Rod Laver Arena due to torrential local rain, was his 500th on tour level hard court. He won the Australian Open only once, in 2009.
Adding a second was his sole focus after yet another semi-final victory.
For me it’s all about the Australian Open more than anything else, he said in his TV interview on the track.
“I’ve been a bit unlucky (here) in my career with some injuries. I played some great finals with good chances. I am very lucky to have won once. I never thought of another chance in 2022.”
Nadal broke the opening serve games of seventh-seeded Berrettini in the opening two sets and, after dropping the third, rallied to reach the finish in just under three hours. That in itself was a relief after his long five-set victory over Denis Shapovalov in the quarterfinals two days earlier.
Nadal was the only member of the so-called Big Three to have a chance to break the deadlock in Australia this time. Federer missed the tournament to continue his recovery from knee surgery.
Djokovic, who has won nine of his Grand Slam titles in Australia, was expelled from the country on the eve of the tournament for failing to meet the country’s strict COVID-19 vaccination criteria.
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