The Balearic will fight for the twenty-first Grand Slam after beating Matteo Berrettini (6-3, 6-2, 3-6 and 6-3)
“I have talked a lot with my family, conversations where there was the possibility of saying goodbye.” After five months without competing, with the scaphoid split in half, pessimism hung over Rafael Nadal. That’s why he buried his head in the racket bag crying after beating Matteo Berrettini (6-3, 6-2, 3-6 and 6-3), because that victory means a “last chance”, the first, actually, of approach the twenty-first Grand Slam. He had never been so close. “He is a semi-miracle,” he clarified.
Nadal will play this Sunday (9:30 a.m. Spanish time) his sixth final in Melbourne, the fifth since he released his locker in 2009 against Roger Federer, the day of the Swiss’s tears. The Spaniard caresses a historic day, because never in his career has he been one match away from surpassing the records of Federer and Novak Djokovic, who watch from their homes, one due to injury and the other due to deportation, how a tennis player can rise to number 21 for the first time. Something unthinkable when Pete Sampras’ 14 were the record to beat, something unimaginable when Federer raised the mark to 17, something inconceivable when Djokovic had the opportunity in New York to place himself above his rivals. But, in the end, Nadal always appears.
Berrettini was his last barrier. A 1.96 meter cannon, with a bomb-loaded right hand and a deadly serve. And with a lot of nerves. The Italian, last Wimbledon finalist, has lost all seven matches he has played against the ‘top ten’ at Grand Slam. He still lacks to familiarize himself with the best. The Spaniard took advantage of his uncertainty to go over him with a 9-3 run. The first two sets revealed the Roman’s shortcomings, especially with the backhand, which was more of a defensive weapon than an attacking one.
Nadal’s only disconnection on serve, in the eighth game of the fourth set, was taken advantage of by Berrettini to get closer on the scoreboard and threaten to lengthen the match as Denis Shapovalov did in the quarterfinals. But there was no hint of Nadal’s physical downturn. This time the battle did not even last three hours and Nadal signed his pass to the final number 29 in a Grand Slam (20-8), two behind those treasured by Federer and Djokovic (31), but with the possibility of pass both this Sunday.
«On Sunday I play a Grand Slam, but I don’t know if it will be my last chance or not. People are with the best in history and it would be an important step in my career, but from 20 to 21 it doesn’t change that much. It would be very nice and very important, but it is not going to change my life, “said Nadal.
It will be his sixth final at the Rod Laver Arena. He won 2009 and lost 2012 against Djokovic, 2014 injured against Stan Wawrinka, 2017 against Federer and 2019 against Djokovic. He returns from Manacor to a Grand Final more than a year later, after Roland Garros 2020.
Barty and Collins will play the women’s final
World number one Ashleigh Barty swept Madison Keys in the semi-finals (6-1 6-3) and continues her journey to become the first Australian to win the title in Melbourne since Christine O’Neil in 1978 Barty has won all ten matches he has played in 2022 and has only lost one set, on his debut at the Adelaide tournament.
Her rival in the final will be the American Danielle Collins, who beat Iga Swiatek (6-4 and 6-1) and will play her first Grand Slam final. The American is one of the great stories of the tournament because at the beginning of last year she underwent an operation for endometriosis to remove an ovarian cyst, which kept her off the court for several months.
Barty dominates heads-up with three wins over Collins, who took his only win precisely in Australia, in one of the preparatory tournaments last season.