Australian Open: Rafael Nadal closes in on Grand Slam history

Rafael Nadal defeated Matteo Berrettini in the Australian Open semifinal to close in on Grand Slam history

Rafael Nadal defeated Matteo Berrettini to make the Australian Open final and close in on Grand Slam history

Rafael Nadal closed in on Grand Slam history as he defeated Italy’s Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 Friday to reach the Australian Open final.

The Spaniard is now one win away from major No 21, which will see him break away from rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and be the most decorated men’s singles Grand Slam champion.

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While Federer did not compete at the Australian Open as he is still recovering from surgery, Djokovic was deported from Australia on the eve of the major.

An emotional Nadal was keen to put things into perspective after the win, reflecting on his journey to yet another Grand Slam championship match after struggling with a foot injury for the second half of the 2021 season.

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“A month and a half ago I didn’t know if I would be able to play tennis,” the Spaniard said in his post-match on-court interview.

“So it doesn’t matter, I just wanted to enjoy it and try my best.”

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Nadal now holds a 2-0 lead over Berrettini in Grand Slam finals. He had beaten Berrettini in straight-sets in the 2019 US Open semi-finals, their only previous meeting.

As well as becoming the first man to 21 Grand Slam titles, lifting the trophy in Melbourne would make Nadal the second man (after World No. 1 Novak Djokovic) in the Open Era to win all four Grand Slams twice.

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Nadal was keen to treat Sunday’s match as he would any other major final, however.

“For me it’s all about the Australian Open, more than anything else,” he said.

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“It’s just an amazing event. I feel very lucky that I won once [here] in my career, 2009, but I never thought about another chance in 2022, so I’ll just try to enjoy the victory today and then after tomorrow I’ll prepare my best.”