What was an apparently controlled evening changed radically. When Rafael Nadal I was practically chewing the semifinals of this Australian Open, the unexpected happened: Stefanos TsitsipasOn the brink of surrender, he straightened up, saw a ray of light and completed a historic comeback on Melbourne’s center court, turning the Spaniard away from the dream of achieving his 21st major and thus overtaking Roger Federer in the great historic race. The Greek ended up prevailing in a night that passed like a thriller, with a very different outcome from the one that was sensed after the first leg of a duel split in two: 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6- 4 and 7-5, after 4h 05m.
Nadal had it under control, until in the tie break of the third set his game got dirty, he badly hit three frank balls when he was ahead and suddenly, although moments before he was mired in the mud, Tsitsipas rose. The Greek, one of those young people who aspires to end the establishment of the three giants and mark the beginning of a new stage, did not lose faith and took advantage of the outbreak of the Balearic Islands to rebuild himself and definitely stand up to him. When no one suspected it, perhaps only the Athenian, the pulse took a radical turn and what two hours earlier was being an exhibition led to an ugly, ugly situation, one emerging in his game and the other decreasing in spirit. Start all over again. And uphill for Nadal.
Until that blob, number two had offered his best version in the tournament. Very intoned at the service, without opening the door once or leaving the slightest crack to his rival, he hit the first three break options that he had and found a juicy vein on the opponent’s right, which before him usually falters through the reverse. Tsitsipas could rush him, nervous, determined to constantly gamble with two or three strokes, while Nadal, patient and authoritarian, only accelerated when it suited him, simmering a victory that he had in his hands until he suffered that blowout so abrupt, totally unexpected.
First he missed one smash and then he missed another one again, curt, overly conservative; later, he made a cane with the backhand and the rival went ahead. Tsitsipas – who came fresh, without having played in the previous season against Matteo Berrettini due to the Italian’s injury – got his wings and, who found a track, flew. Knowing himself lost, he found an oasis in those three lapses of the Spaniard and revived. Seen what was seen, he could not imagine. Everything changed, everything was different. Tied that sleeve, the boy from Athens gave a tremendous acceleration and his game soared as Nadal had doubts about the serve and the percentages began to decrease. The Spanish lost finesse, his ball no longer hurt. From nothing to everything, Tsitsipas guessed the opportunity and went all out for it.
The curve was completely reversed. The Greek took out the square and the bevel, and began to find the gaps that had previously been denied him. At the fourth break option he had, he was right (for 5-4, in the fourth quarter) and was opening a gap towards a victory that leaves their mark. Both physically and emotionally, Nadal began to go in tow and the good feelings of the first section of the night were lost. In service, Tsitsipas had no choice. Perhaps he recalled the impudence he used two years ago in Spain, when he knocked down the Balearic in the Madrid arena. Then he already showed that he was going to be a thorny opponent, endorsing him in the present with an astonishing comeback. Until now, only Italian Fabio Fognini had been able to lift two sets against Nadal in a big one. It was in New York, in 2015.
This time, the milestone bears the signature of a young man with the appearance of a surfer who is consolidating himself on the noble floor of the circuit. Tsitsipas had arrests, scratched a gold break in the eleventh set of the epilogue and dodged the moment of maximum difficulty, when the Spaniard frustrated the first two match points and then had an option to snatch the serve. It would have been a 6-6, another movie, probably. But it held. Nadal volleyed in a strange way and later, the winner put the signature with a parallel backhand that ended this rugged adventure of the Mallorcan in the Antipodes. He held her back, touched, but it lacked definition.
Now, Tsitsipas will be measured with Daniil Medvedev, a fierce competitor who will arrive thrown into the crash. The Russian defeated his compatriot Rublev (7-5, 6-3 and 6-2) and won his 19th victory since breaking through in November on the Paris-Bercy track. There he won the title and then has continued to add: another five triumphs and the trophy in the Masters Cup, four more and the title of the ATP Cup, and the five that he has now enshrined in Melbourne, where he continues to demonstrate, in addition, that he is strong with the strong. The victory against Rublev placed him for the first time in the third step of the ranking – unseating Dominic Thiem, eliminated in the last 16 – and marked his eleventh consecutive victory against members of the top-10.
THE PUBLIC WILL RETURN TO THE GRADES
The state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, announced this Wednesday that the five-day confinement that it decreed last week will end at midnight, when an outbreak of 13 covid-10 infections was detected in Terminal 4 of the city’s airport.
That day, the Australian Open organization interrupted the match between Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz and the spectators who attended the night session had to leave the complex at 23:30 to return to their homes, following government guidelines.
From this Thursday, then, the players will stop listening to the ovations canned by the public address system and the applause of the fans will return from the stands of Melbourne Parka. Specifically, those of the 7,477 (half of the capacity) that the Australian Federation will allow in each session.
The public will witness the women’s semifinals next morning, which were completed on Wednesday. The number one, Ashleigh Barty, fell against all odds against Karolina Muchova (1-6, 6-3 and 6-2) and in the other quarterfinal, Jennifer Brady beat her compatriot Jessica Pegula (4-6, 6- 2 and 6-1).
Around 4:00 (Eurosport) Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka will take to the track, then Muchova and Brady will face each other, and at 9:30 Djokovic and Aslan Karatsev will measure their forces.
Australian Open: Results (Wednesday 17th) Y order of play (Thursday 18).