Rafael Nadal ended the Australian Open run of exciting young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in brutal fashion to reach his 25th grand slam final.
Tsitsipas was looking to become only the third man after Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic to beat both Roger Federer and Nadal at the same slam but was firmly put in his place as the Spaniard swept to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 victory in just an hour and 46 minutes.
Nadal will take on either Djokovic or Frenchman Lucas Pouille, who play their semi-final on Friday, in the title decider on Sunday.
Nadal, for whom this will be a fifth Australian Open final, arrived in Melbourne having not played a competitive match since the US Open because of a variety of injury issues, and he said: “It has been a great match, great tournament.
“I think I played very well every day. After a lot of months without playing, this court and this crowd have given me this unbelievable energy.
Rafael Nadal hasn't dropped a set yet this #ausopen.— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) January 24, 2019
He dropped serve twice, saving 14/16 break points he faced.
He has won 81% of his first-serve points.
He is averaging 32.8 winners per match.
His longest match was R3 v De Minaur, 2hr 22min pic.twitter.com/E2XadJtfQo
“To start the season like this when a few weeks ago when I was in Brisbane, having to take a very tough decision not to play there. In that moment it was difficult for me to imagine where I am today. Since the tournament started I’ve felt really, really well.”
On Tsitsipas, Nadal said: “He has everything to become a multi grand slam champion. When at this age he is already in the semi-finals, it says a lot of good things about him.”
Tsitsipas’ run and the flair with which he has played has been one of the stories of the tournament, and Melbourne’s large Greek community were once again out in force to support their man.
But opportunities to wave the blue and white flag were scarce, with Nadal getting off to a fast start and keep his foot pressed firmly down.
The Spaniard usually reserves this type of bulldozing performance through a draw for the French Open but he has barely put a foot wrong since arriving in Melbourne and this was the best performance of the lot.
Tsitsipas looked like he might have achieved a foothold when he recovered from 0-40 at 2-2 in the second set to hold serve with some fine attacking play.
It takes courage to continue to push forward against Nadal but the Greek’s defences were breached again as the second seed broke for 5-4 before serving it out.
By the third set, Tsitsipas’ belief that he could hit winning shots against his fearsome opponent had drained away and the end came swiftly.
Nadal will now look to win his second title at Melbourne Park 10 years after his first. The 32-year-old has made the final three more times but lost once each to Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and, in an epic battle two years ago, Federer.
If he wins on Sunday, he will achieve something neither Federer nor Djokovic have managed by winning each slam title at least twice.
Provided by Press Association Sport
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