Nadal, Medvedev Set To Meet In Australian Open Final

Rafael Nadal (photo: George Sal / Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 28, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Over his nearly 20-year career as professional, Rafael Nadal‘s philosophy can be summed up in nine tidy words: “We need to suffer, and we need to fight.”

No words were truer spoken but they seemed to characterize both Nadal’s journey to reach the final of this year’s Australian Open in Melbourne, which has placed him in Saturday’s title match against Daniil Medvedev, who himself has endured a bit of suffering and shown a need to fight during the Melbourne fortnight.

On Friday afternoon, with the roof closed on Rod Laver Arena to keep the rain out, the World No. 5 Nadal put himself in a position to play for a record 21st Grand Slam singles title in his 29th major final with his 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy, in his 36th major semifinal contest. The sixth-seeded Spaniard took care of winning the first semifinal in just a few minutes shy of three hours en route to reaching his sixth Australian Open title match. It was his 500th career hard court match victory.

Nadal will play Medvedev, who is 10 years younger than he is. On Friday evening, in a contentious semifinal in which the World No. 2 lost his temper and screamed obscenities at chair umpire Jaume Campistol, which resulted in a code violation, and his opponent, No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, received a warning for coaching, the 25-year-old reigning US Open champion beat the young Greek star, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, in two-and-a-half hours. It advanced Medvedev to Sunday’s final and put him into position to win his second straight major title.

“Some matches are very even,” Medvedev said during an on-court interview following his victory. “I missed some balls at a few moments where I could have got a break and he missed a few at the start of the third set. Then, from 5-4 in the third [set] I just found some momentum and started to read his serve and put every ball in. I hit some very important passing shots and his energy went down because of this and my energy went up.”

Throughout, Medvedev found an easy target in Tsitsipas’s backhand. The Russian hit flat and powerful groundstrokes from the baseline that produced 39 winners and resulted in four breaks of the Greek’s serve. Tsitsipas committed 35 unforced errors. After Tsitsipas received a warning for coaching early in the fourth set, he didn’t win another game as Medvedev picked up the pace and poured it on at the finish line. It was Medvedev’s seventh triumph over Tsitsipas in nine matches and second-straight semifinal win in Melbourne.

At the US Open last September, it was Medvedev who kept current No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia from winning a record 21st major title and a calendar-year Grand Slam. Now, can he keep Nadal from winning his 21st Grand Slam title? If he does, he would become the first player to follow his first major trophy with his second at the next Grand Slam event.

Medvedev dearly loves to play the role of the spoiler and in Rod Laver Arena against Nadal, he’ll be cast as the villain against the lovable, 35-year-old Nadal, who is the only one of the Big Three playing in Melbourne this year, with Federer out recovering from knee surgery and Djokovic – a record nine-time winner of the Australian Open – absent and not playing because he was deported from Australia on the eve of the tournament, after his visa was revoked by the federal government and his final appeal was rejected.

In Nadal’s semifinal against Berrettini, which came after an exhausting 5-set thrilling quarterfinal victory against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov on Tuesday, the Spaniard took advantage of Berrettini’s weaker backhand side and and broke the powerful Roman’s serve four times. He ended with 21 winners and was ahead on points 108-96.

“I started the match playing great,” Nadal said of his match against Berrettti, who was the first Italian to reach the Australian Open semifinals. “The first two sets were two of the best for a long time. I know how good Matteo is, he’s a very solid player, very dangerous. In the third, I knew at some point he was going to go for his shots. We needed to suffer, we needed to fight, we fought again and that’s the only way to be where I am today. It means a lot to me to be in the final again here.”

After his victory, a tearful Nadal tried putting things into perspective. He reflected on his journey to try to win his second Australian Open title after capturing his first one in 2009, in which he beat Federer. Since then, he lost the 2012 final in Melbourne to Djokovic that lasted five hours and 53 minutes, and lost another lengthy final to Federer in 2017 after holding a 3-1 lead in the fifth set. Last year, Nadal dealt with a foot injury that derailed his season in August. Since coming back, he won a title in his first ATP Tour event, the Melbourne Summer Set. This happened shortly after he tested positive for COVID-19 after playing in an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi.

“A month and a half ago I didn’t know if I would be able to play tennis,” Nadal said in his post-match interview on court. “So, it doesn’t matter, I just wanted to enjoy it and try my best. …

“Being very honest, for me is much more important to have the chance to play tennis than win the 21, no?”

And what does Medvedev think about playing Nadal, whom he lost to in the title match of the 2019 US Open?

“I am going to play against one of the greatest and against someone going for their 21st Grand Slam. Grand Slam finals are special and I can remember the final against Rafa at the US Open. It was my first final and we played for about five hours We have play a few matches since then and I am ready,” Medvedev said.

“It’s a great rivalry, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. I’m happy to have the chance to try to stop one more time somebody from making history.”

Top seed Kuzuhara to play for junior boys’ title

Top-seeded American Bruno Kuzuhara and Jakob Mensik of the Czech Republic will play for the Australian Open junior boys’ title on Saturday in Rod Laver Arena after winning their semifinals matches on Friday at Melbourne Park.

The 17-year-old Kuzuhara advanced with a 7-6 (2), 6-3 victory over Adolfo Daniel Vallejo, the first Paraguayan boy to reach a junior Grand Slam singles semifinal, on Margaret Court Arena. Meanwhile, the 16-year-old fourth-seeded Mensik defeated Switzerland’s Kilian Feldbausch, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, on Court 5 ahead of the rain. Feldbausch was the first boy from Switzerland to reach the junior boys’ semifinal at Melbourne since Roger Federer in 1998.

“I am feeling amazing,” Kuzuhara told after converting five of six break points and hitting 16 winners against Vallejo. “It is always great to make a Grand Slam final and to win [doubles] today with my partner was an amazing feeling.

“I feel like it is always better to win tonight. At least I get to sleep on a win, not a loss, and it won’t affect me mentally tomorrow. There are only positive things going into tomorrow’s final after today.”

• Later Friday, Kuzuhara teamed up with Coleman Wong of Hong Kong to win the junior boys’ doubles title with a 7-3, 7-6 victory over Vallejo and Alex Michelsen of the United States in an hour and 53 minutes.

Junior World No. 1 Marcinko advances to girls’ final

Junior World No. 1 Petra Marcinko of Croatia, who is the top seed in the Australian Open junior girls’ event, advanced to Saturday’s final with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over No. 13 seed Liv Hovde of the United States in a rain-affected match that began outside and was completed with the roof closed on Margaret Court Arena Friday.

During the one-hour and 42-minute semifinal, the 16-year-old Marcinko hit five aces and 21 winners and converted five of seven break-point opportunities. She outpointed Hovde 90-86.

Marcinko will face 16-year-old Sofia Costoulas of Belgium, seeded eighth, who ended the hopes of a first Australian girls’ champion in Melbourne since 1995 by defeating unseeded Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz, 6-4, 6-1. Costoulas hit 17 winners and took advantage of 32 unforced errors by Kempenaers-Pocz. She outpointed her opponent 66-45 during the one-hour and 14-minute semifinal on Margaret Court Arena.

“It is an amazing feeling to be a junior Grand Slam finalist,” Marcinko told “I have never done this well at a Grand Slam before and I was shaking for so long after my match that I needed time to calm down.

“I don’t want to get hyped up too much because I have one more match, but where we were eating the other day, there pictures of all these big names, and it would be amazing to win where they won.

“I was told before this week that the junior finals are on Rod Laver [Arena] and I’m now there. I just want to play there, I am going to give everything I have. I just want to be in that giant stadium.”

• The junior girls’ doubles title was won by Russia’s Diana Shnaider and Clervie Ngounoue of the United States. They defeated Canadian duo Victoria Mboko and Kayla Cross, 6-4, 6-3, in 53 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.

Friday’s Australian Open results 

Saturday’s Australian Open order of play

Now it can be told

By the numbers

• Friday’s Day 12 attendance reached 16,042.

• At age 35, Rafael Nadal is the fifth oldest man to reach the Australian Open singles final in the Open Era (since 1968).

“Quotable …”

“I’m just trying to focus on myself, doing my job. I know what’s happening. I know what Rafa is going for. I knew what Novak was going for. I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I am trying not to listen about this.’ But it’s kid of their thing, not mine.”

Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who has one Grand Slam title and it trying to establish himself as a leading player in reacting to the rivalry of The Big Three (Nadal, Djokovic and Federer) and the affect it has had on his game.

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

Rafael Nadal of Spain, reflecting on his semifinal victory Friday and looking ahead to what it means to be playing in the Australian Open final.