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Rafael Nadal on brink of history after reaching Australian Open final


Rafael Nadal marched into the Australian Open final on Friday, leaving him just one win away from becoming the all-time men’s Grand Slam leader after overcoming Matteo Berrettini in their semifinal match.

The 35-year-old Spanish great, seeded sixth, was too solid for the Italian No. 7 seed, winning 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in 2 hours, 55 minutes to reach Sunday’s final.

Nadal is seeking his 21st Grand Slam title, which would break a three-way tie with Novak Djokovic, who was deported on the eve of the tournament, and Roger Federer, who missed the event due to injury.

Nadal, who is in his sixth final at Melbourne Park, also has an opportunity to add to his lone Australian Open title.

“For me it’s all about the Australian Open more than anything else, it’s an amazing event,” Nadal said.

“I have been a little unlucky during my career with some injuries and I played in some amazing finals here with some good chances against Novak in 2012 and Roger 2017, I was close a couple of times.

“I feel very lucky that I won once in my career in 2009, but I never thought about another chance in 2022.

“So I’ll just try to enjoy today’s victory and try my best in the final.”

Nadal has given an extraordinary effort at the year’s first Grand Slam, having modified his game to compensate for a degenerative bone disease in his left foot that ended his 2021 season last August.

He then caught COVID-19 in December which, he said, made him “very sick.”

Yet Nadal brushed aside Berrettini with precision shot-making, while last year’s Wimbledon finalist could not overcome a sluggish start.

“I started the match playing great, the first two sets were my best for a long time and I knew Matteo was a very solid player, very dangerous and I knew at some point in the third set he was going to go for his shots,” Nadal said.

“It means a lot to me to be in the final again here,” added Nadal, who is now unbeaten in 10 matches to start the 2022 season after winning a warm-up event in Melbourne.

Nadal got off to the better start, breaking Berrettini’s opening service game when the Italian’s backhand went wide. Nadal rolled through his own service holds to claim the opening set on his fourth set point in 43 minutes.

Nadal was honing in on Berrettini’s backhand and got his reward with a double break to take a stranglehold on the second set.

He finished off a 10-stroke rally with a delicate slice that again exposed Berrettini’s backhand for the double break.

Berrettini, the first Italian man to play in the Australian Open semifinals, raised his level in the third set.

He brought up his first break points in six sets in his two encounters with Nadal and broke with a forehand winner to take a 5-3 lead and served out to cut the deficit to one set.

But the key break came in the eighth game of the fourth set, with Nadal bringing up two separate break points and getting the crucial break when Berrettini netted a forehand before serving out for the match.

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