Rafael Nadal is just one win away from winning a record-breaking 21st grand slam title after the Spaniard reached the Australian Open final on Friday.
Nadal won his semifinal in impressive fashion after beating Matteo Berrettini of Italy in four sets – 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 – and will now face Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final.
Nadal currently shares the men’s singles grand slam record (20) with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic but now has the chance to go one better than his historic rivals.
The 35-year-old was keen to play down his chance to create history and says he is just focused on winning the Australian Open, a title he’s won just once before in his illustrious career.
“For me it’s all about the Australian Open more than anything else,” Nadal said after the match.
“It’s just an amazing event that, as I said a couple of days ago, I had been a little bit unlucky with some injuries.
“There were times I played amazing finals with good chances – against Novak in 2012, against Roger 2017 – I was close a couple of times.
“I feel very lucky that I won it once in my career in 2009 but I never thought about another chance in 2022.”
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‘Best I’ve played for a long time’
There were questions over Nadal’s fitness going into the tournament after he struggled with injuries and a bout of Covid-19 last year.
He also suffered through a five-set thriller against Denis Shapovalov in the quarterfinals but the 20-time grand slam champion looked remarkably fresh against Berrettini.
With the roof closed on the Rod Laver Arena due to storms in Melbourne – creating an atmosphere that arguably might have favored Berrettini – Nadal raced into a two-set lead after producing tennis that he said was the “best I’ve played for a long time.”
The Italian, known for his power, eventually made a match of it by winning the third set but too many mistakes cost the 25-year-old and he could do little to quell Nadal’s intensity.
“We need to suffer and we need to fight. That is the only way to be where I am today. Honestly, it means a lot to me to be in the final here again,” Nadal said, who will now prepare for the 29th grand slam final of his career.