Skip to main content

Rafael Nadal reacts after winning the first set against Matteo Berrettini during their semi-final match at the Australian Open, in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan. 28.The Associated Press

Rafael Nadal is within one victory of a men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title.

He’ll have to beat second-seeded Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final on Sunday to make history. And Medvedev is chasing a piece of history of his own after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a heated semi-final on Friday. The U.S. Open champion is aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win his second Grand Slam title at the next major tournament.

Nadal advanced to the final in Australia for the sixth time with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win in a mostly lopsided contest against seventh-seeded Matteo Berrettini in the first of the men’s semi-finals.

On Saturday, Australia’s Ash Barty, the No. 1 seed, was to take on No. 27 Danielle Collins of the United States in the women’s final.

Medvedev had a more tempestuous and challenging run to back-to-back Australian Open finals. He had to deal with a hostile crowd in his second-round win over Nick Kyrgios, had to save a match point and rally from two sets down to beat Félix Auger-Aliassime in a nearly five-hour quarter-final win. Then he had to regain his composure after an angry outburst in the second set of the semi-final.

Nadal’s run to a 29th Grand Slam final has been comparatively serene.

After the last point, he stopped, beamed a wide grin and then punched the air three times.

Nadal arrived in Australia not knowing how long he would last after months off the tour dealing with a serious foot injury and then a bout of COVID-19. He skipped Wimbledon after losing in the French Open semi-finals to Novak Djokovic, and didn’t play at all after August.

Last month, he wasn’t even sure he’d be able to return to the tour. But he won a tune-up tournament in Melbourne and has taken six straight matches at the first Grand Slam event of the year.

One more and he’ll break the record of 20 major championships he shares with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Nadal would also become just the fourth man to win all four Grand Slam titles at least twice.

Nadal’s win over Wimbledon runner-up Berrettini, under a closed roof at Rod Laver Arena, because of heavy rain, was his 500th on hard courts at tour level.

But he’s only won the Australian Open once, in 2009, and adding a second was his primary focus.

He lost classic five-set finals at Melbourne Park to Djokovic in 2012 and Federer in ′17. Nadal lost to Stan Wawrinka in 2014 and against Djokovic three years ago.

“I feel very lucky that I won once,” he said. “I never thought about another chance in 2022.”

Nadal broke Berrettini’s opening service games in the first two sets and, after dropping the third set on a rare service lapse, he rallied to finish off the match in just under three hours. That in itself was a relief after his long quarter-final win over Denis Shapovalov.

Nadal was the only member of the so-called Big Three who had a chance to break the deadlock in Australia this time.

“I’m going to play again against one of the greatest,” Medvedev said of Sunday’s final. “Again, I’m going to play somebody going for the 21st Slam. I’m ready.”