Rafael Nadal ready to channel Federer 2017 as he guns for Grand Slam history

Daniil Medvedev braced for another marathon when he meets Stefanos Tsitsipas

Rafael Nadal is bidding for a record 21st Grand Slam title. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty

Rafael Nadal is bidding for a record 21st Grand Slam title. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty

 

Rafael Nadal is relishing the opportunity to surprise as he attempts to hunt down a record 21st grand slam title at the Australian Open.

The 35-year-old only committed to travelling to Melbourne a couple of days before his flight having doubted he would be back at all while he battled foot problems last season.

But Nadal has so far been too good for all his opponents and stands just two matches away from surpassing his great rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

There are parallels with Federer’s run here five years ago, when he returned from knee problems with expectations low only to battle through the draw and beat Nadal in the final in one of the great grand slam stories.

Nadal only just survived a five-set examination from Denis Shapovalov in the quarter-finals on Tuesday but lives to fight another day.

“I am just enjoying playing tennis,” said Nadal ahead of his clash with Matteo Berrettini on Friday.

“Of course I want to keep winning, but more than because I want to achieve or I want to have more than the others, it’s because I love what I am doing. I want to keep doing this as long as possible.

“Of course the last six months there have been a lot of doubts if I would be able to keep going. But now I feel good. We are in a position that we won a tournament, we are in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, so that’s amazing for me.

“In terms of what can happen in the future, honestly I really don’t care that much. I don’t believe that my future happiness is going to depend on if I achieve one more grand slam than the others or if the others achieve more grand slams than me.”

Make no mistake that Nadal wants this title, though, and he finds himself in the position that Djokovic has occupied so often recently of trying to hold off the next generation.

First up is seventh-seeded Italian Berrettini, who has become a consistent performer at the slams and is looking to follow up his Wimbledon final appearance by reaching a second Sunday showdown.

The 25-year-old lost his only previous meeting with Nadal at the US Open in 2019, and said: “This is a great opportunity again for me.

“I watched him so many times in this tournament and other tournaments, cheering for him, and playing with him in Rod Laver in the semi-finals is something that I dreamed about when I was a kid.

“But now I really want to win this match. I know I can do it. It’s going to be a really tough one. But I’m in the semis in a slam for the third time, so it means that this is my level and I want to get further.”

Medvedev v Tsitsipas

The other match is a repeat of last year’s semi-final between second seed Daniil Medvedev and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Medvedev won comfortably 12 months ago but comes into this match having recovered from two sets to love down and saved a match point in a dramatic and draining quarter-final against Felix Auger-Aliassime on Wednesday night.

“I never had this experience,” said the Russian. “I played some long matches but never like four hours and never won it to be able to play in two days.

“If we look at the best, they were able to do it somehow. I don’t know how. So, if I want to be a part of this group, even if I’m really far right now, I want to try to make it happen.

Daniil Medvedev came from two sets down to beat Felix Auger-Aliassime. Photograph: Martin Keep/Getty/AFP
Daniil Medvedev came from two sets down to beat Felix Auger-Aliassime. Photograph: Martin Keep/Getty/AFP

“I’m going to try to recover as well as possible, to be ready to play against Stefanos, because he’s a great player. I need to be at my best to beat him.”

Medvedev is bidding to make his own bit of history by becoming the first man in the Open era to follow up a maiden grand slam title by winning the next major tournament.

“It’s a good challenge,” he said. “I’m two matches away. US Open gave me a lot of confidence. I need to continue fighting.”

Tsitsipas came into the tournament with doubts over his fitness after elbow surgery in November and has had several scares but produced an exemplary performance to defeat Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.