Nadal turns off Berrettini’s impetus and will play the final of the Australian Open
Rafael Nadal lives another day of euphoria, clinging to tennis and self-improvement, in his sixth Australian Open final. Excited after beating Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 3-6 and 6-3 after almost three hours of meeting. The Balearic once again shows an infinite capacity to win another opportunity to continue playing tennis, and to write another line of history. He only has one step left, that of the final, against Stefanos Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev, to conquer his 21st Grand Slam. Another galaxy.
Roof closed because of the heat and humidity has turned to rain in Melbourne, Rafael Nadal He forced himself to adapt to a slower ball and somewhat more leaden conditions, but the Balearic Islands have plenty of resources for any type of circumstance. With this, there are already 36 penultimate rounds of Grand Slams, 499 wins on hard court, against a tennis player, 7 in the world, who is still growing, third semifinal of a major, barely a hundred games on this surface with 54 wins and 41 losses. An abyss of resources and tricks between one and the other.
Nadal took advantage of one of them, thinking about how the rival thinks, studying his weak points with only a couple of exchanges, finding before the Italian the place where he would aim for mid-court shots. The Balearic struck with his right hand crossed towards Berrettini’s backhand, less safe with that blow and much less dangerous. He read with great success the places where the 7 in the world would be sure to hit the balls at half court. He took the game to his field before the apparent initial confusion of the Italian, unable to tickle the Spanish, 3-0 with good service and strategy set on the weakest side of the rival. There was no more resistance on the Italian side than forcing Nadal to get the set at the fifth ball of the set, after forcing the deuce. The Spaniard was comfortable in a first set that was always under his command.
Berrettini touched his cap at the entrance of the second set. Nadal’s legs were going twice as fast as his, also his ideas, also his hand. Impossible in those circumstances to make the rhythm and the game his own, not even the points that he began dominating or taking out. Break start for the Spaniard, who got bigger and bigger while the Italian got smaller, entangled in a backhand that was not able to decipher the effect of Nadal’s forehands, stuck in that corner without being able to get his own right to take a walk. The plan worked for the Spaniard: avoid the rival’s serve and forehand, hammer the backhand, take advantage of other people’s mistakes, of the Italian’s increasingly lost faith.
Berrettini did not find solutions, stuck and slow in the answers to the questions that Nadal offered him, gestures contrary to the box, because even in the great points that he commanded there was no good result in the end. Or because there were failures resulting from doubts, from the disbelief of knowing oneself incapable of doing harm or because Nadal was always, always there. Where the seven of the world pointed with a certain viciousness, with all the faith of which he was capable, to redouble the speed of the ball and turn it against him, and in unattainable angles and areas of the track.
The Balearic did not even see it demanded, always sure in his blows, opening the track with the backhand, mortifying with his right; five unforced errors in the first set, two in the second.
The Spaniard was able to increase the level if the rival required it, although it took him a long time to need the resource.
Berrettini was applauded for never losing his sanity or form, despite feeling lost in two hours of meeting. He was only able to get a couple of fists in the first two sets, that’s how the game was, little given to the celebrations in his box. His great serve only began to be effective at the beginning of the third set, for the first time the Italian was ahead on the scoreboard. “Dai” (Let’s go, in Italian) on the air and some mental restructuring. Last chance to show that if he had reached the third semifinal of a Grand Slam it was not by luck, but by tennis and conviction. The Italian believed more. Lethal rights at last, loose in the exchanges, Another face. More in line with what the test required.
Nadal immediately understood that everything that had served him in the first two sets was not going to be enough against this new version of the Italian. Forced to seek more resources from his hat, took refuge in their services and took the patience to play. Direct serves to solve moments of tension. Berrettini took the baton in the exchanges, four blank service games.
But, opposite, Nadal. And little more difficult than winning the Balearic Islands. In the eighth game, at the limit, Berrettini suffered again, who still lacks a few experiences of this type. From four games without opposition, to the fifth, his service trembled. He raised a break option for the Spaniard, but not the second, both due to two errors with his right.
5-3 and serve for Nadal. Aware of the prize at the end of this game, a double fault betrayed him early on. Nadal solutions: impeccable serve and volley to tie. Berrettini error on the next right. “It doesn’t matter if the roof was closed and there was more noise. A month and a half ago I didn’t know if I could return to the circuit, ”conceded the Balearic in his champion speech, another smile of relief, of happiness, of another great final.
233 match wins when taking the first two sets. 21 in the semifinals of a major. Australian Open final 6. Twenty-ninth in a Grand Slam. One step away from lifting the 21st title of the greats, one step away from entering another galaxy.