With the absence of both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic this fortnight, only Rafael Nadal has had the opportunity to pull ahead in the slam leaderboard. The Spaniard will face Matteo Berrettini for a spot in the final, where Daniil Medvedev seems the most likely opponent. Nadal has been a finalist in Melbourne five times but has only won the title once with a five set win back in 2009.
Nadal will need all the rest he can following his gruelling five set win over Denis Shapovalov in the quarter finals. He was two sets up before stomach issues hit, allowing the Canadian to take it into a decider. He broke early before showing great determination to hold until the end and secure the win. “I don’t know, [it] was a little bit of miracle. I was destroyed honestly, physically,” Nadal said after. “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.”
Berrettini will likely be more disappointed with his failure to close out a 2-0 lead against Gael Monfils. He did hit 50 winners in the 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 6-2 win over the Frenchman, making it now three slams out of four he has made the semis or better at now. He will be ruing his failure to take break points in the third, especially with the potential benefit in this match provided by a straight forward win. “I thought I had him in the third set and then I found myself in the fifth. But I really fought hard and put everything on the court and that is why I am really happy.” he said afterwards.
Nadal shouldn’t be at too much of a disadvantage physically as both matches went the distance but it will depend on how he has recovered otherwise. The warm afternoon conditions should suit Nadal who will get a better bounce than usual, which will make things tricky for Berrettini if he drops his level even a little. The Italian is a solid top 10 player nowadays but has often been exposed by the best of the best and it should happen again here – especially with a vulnerable (although improving) backhand. If Nadal can dictate as we all expect, his opponent is unlikely to be able to handle the pressure.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in four sets