Nadal wins the first set 6-3!
Tsitsipas 3-6* Nadal (*denotes server)
The Greek is unbowed after that break of serve and hits a mighty winner to claim the first point. He attempts the same to try and go 30-0 up and lashes the ball out of play. Better comes as he goes 30-15 up with a great return. The next return goes out to make it 30-30. Nadal looks fierce as he claims set point with some typical artillery. That’s snaffled up with a kick serve that can only be driven into the base of the net.
Tsitsipas* 3-5 Nadal (*denotes server)
First break of the match! Tsitsipas points where Nadal has been sweating on the court. And asks for it to be cleaned up. Nadal looks unamused by the suggestion he is over-perspiring. The action gets underway with Tsitsipas coming to the net and smashing the ball home. The same happens for the next. A second serve chance is seized on by Nadal for 15-30, with a hooking winner. Then it goes to 30-30. Tsitsipas’s turn to sweat as Nadal grabs a break point with a backhand crash. The break is claimed when the Greek goes for a winner down the line and crashes off the net.
Tsitsipas 3-4 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal taking ages over his serves, and there seems to be a reason for that. Tsitsipas goes 30-0 up after two bad services from the Spaniard who recovers himself to win the next. And the next, which flies down the line. Then, after a 25-shot rally, Nadal works a winner through the open court. Then Tsitsipas scoops the ball high to concede the game.
Tsitsipas* 3-3 Nadal (*denotes server)
Tsitsipas begins with a kicking serve. He goes 30-15 down after a couple of errors before levelling after a long rally which ends with Nadal going long. He steps up to 40-30 when Nadal nets then wins the game with a towering smash.
Tsitsipas 2-3 Nadal* (*denotes server)
An error forced by Tsitsipas to start off, then Nadal whips a winner to equalise. Then Tsitsipas goes long. He wins the next, though, a rally, by coming to the net. Nadal celebrates a serve that Tsitsipas cannot return. Then the Greek’s backhand lets him down.
Tsitsipas* 2-2 Nadal (*denotes server)
Tsitsipas begins with an un-returnable serve, then sends Nadal on a run and he can’t dig out his shot. Then comes another ace. And then the game is served out to love.
Tsitsipas 1-2 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Tsitsipas seems to fancy taking on the Nadal serve but to little avail. He’s blindsided by an ace for 30-0, and then the Spaniard bullies one down the line for 40-0. Much the same happens to seal the game.
Tsitsipas* 1-1 Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal is sent around the court by the Greek’s backhand, and some decent serving, and the game is served out to love.
Tsitsipas 0-1 Nadal* (*denotes server)
And away we go, with the veteran – he’s still only 34 – taking the honour. Tsitsipas’s return wins the first point but he nets the second. Then comes a long rally which ends with Tsitsipas’s attempted winner going just wide. A double fault makes it 30-30. Tsitsipas goes too long to hand over game point, and Nadal serves out to claim.
The players are on the court at the Rod Laver Arena, with Nadal in peach and Tsitsipas in a canary yellow. The knocking up begins to the tune of The Weeknd, pop pickers.
Daniil Medvedev awaits in the semi, having dealt with Andrey Rublev in three sets. Nadal in back in the quarter-finals, where he perished last year, losing to Dominic Thiem. Tsitsipas was a semi-finalist in 2019 but could only reach the third round last year. Nadal is looking to win only his second Australian Open, the sole victory coming in that 2009 epic win over Roger Federer.
The record between these two is six wins to Nadal to one from Tsitsipas, though the younger man did beat Nadal on clay once. Their last two meetings have been on the hard court at London’s ATP finals, and both went to the maximum three seats.
The stage is set though Covid restrictions stop any spectators being in the arena until tomorrow. Join me.