Rafael Nadal beats Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach Australian Open final

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 24: Rafael Nadal celebrates victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the first mens semi final on day 11 at the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 24, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

Lightning did not strike twice in Melbourne. After conquering defending champion Roger Federer, 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas could not see off two greats within a week as he was comfortably beaten by a superb Rafael Nadal, who will now compete in his fifth Australian Open final.

Tsitsipas beat Federer in four sets in the fourth round Sunday and promised to “do something good” against Nadal in a highly-anticipated semifinal, but the Spaniard was too powerful for the Greek, giving him little opportunity to become only the third man to beat both Federer and Nadal at a major.

The semifinal was as comfortable for Nadal as the 6-2 6-4 6-0 scoreline suggests. The 17-time grand slam champion served brilliantly — he has yet to drop a set in this tournament — to progress to a 25th grand slam final of a remarkable career, five short of Federer’s all-time record.

On current form, Nadal will prove to be a formidable foe in the final for either Novak Djokovic or Lucas Rouille, who will play each other Friday in the other men’s semifinal.

Asked by on-court interviewer John McEnroe whether he could play any better, a smiling Nadal replied: “Hopefully, yes.

“It’s been a great match, great tournament. I think I’ve played very well every day. A lot of months without playing — this court, this crowd, have given me an unbelievable energy.”

Much was expected of Tsitsipas, the first Greek player to reach a major semifinal and the youngest man to do so at the Australian Open since Andy Roddick in 2003, aged 20 years and 149 days. His stunning display against Federer, the two-time defending champion, had raised expectations.

But Nadal was playing at another level, performing at a standard not even the Spaniard has previously attained in Melbourne — he lost only 12 points on serve in the match and volleyed beautifully. Tsitsipas had no hope and folded in one hour and 46 minutes.

Nadal, aiming to become the first man in the open era to win each of the four grand slam titles twice, took the first set in 31 minutes, breaking in the third and seventh games, and losing just three points on serve.

The second set was a competitive, high-quality encounter until Nadal pounced in the ninth game, breaking the 14th seed and serve out to love.

In the third set, Tsitsipas had little to offer as Nadal went on to win eight games on the trot, successfully defending Tsitsipas’ first break point of the match in what happened to be the final game of the match.

But despite being outplayed and losing to Nadal for the third time in his career, Tsitsipas has the potential to become a multiple grand slam champion, says Nadal.

“I would not be the one to say no,” he said when asked about the Greek’s potential.

“Good serve, good shots from the baseline. He has everything to become a multi grand slam champion. When at that age he’s in the semifinals that says a lot of good things about him.”

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