WILL EVANS’ daily preview serves up Australian Open tips for a quarter-final showdown between boom youngster Jannik Sinner and Melbourne Park specialist Stefanos Tsitsipas.
14:30 (AEDT), Fri 28th Jan @ Melbourne Park
History: Played 1: Nadal 1 V Berrettini 0
First meeting: US Open, 2019 (SF): Nadal d Berrettini 7-6 6-4 6-1
Final Thoughts: Sixth seed Rafael Nadal is gunning for his 29th Grand Slam final appearance. Australian Open semi-final opponent Matteo Berrettini, the seventh seed, is vying for his second berth in a major decider.
Both players have overcome sizeable obstacles to make it to the last four in Melbourne.
Nadal had a relatively smooth ride through to the quarters. The 35-year-old beat Marcos Giron, Yannick Hanfmann and Adrian Mannarino, and was relatively convincing in a four-set defeat of big-serving Russian Karen Khachanov.
He won the first two sets against 14th seed Denis Shapovalov in the quarters but – with a stomach illness taking its toll – lost the next two. Nadal dug deep to take out the fifth set 6-3. Nadal, chasing an unprecedented 21st Slam, won his only Australian Open title back in 2009, but he has won all four semi-finals in Melbourne since.
Berrettini’s high-quality straight-sets win over 19th seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth round was bookended by nerve-shredding five-setters against 31st seed Carlos Alcaraz Garfia in the third and 17th seed Gael Monfils in the quarters.
The 25-year-old Italian gave up two-set leads in both victories before rallying to win the fifth. Berrettini’s strong serve and take-no-prisoners attacking style came to the fore when it counted.
The pair have met just once previously – in the 2019 US Open semi-finals, where a red-hot Nadal rolled through Berrettini in straight sets on his way to the title. Berrettini has appeared in just one other Grand Slam semi, overwhelming Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon last year.
Nadal’s fitness is a potential concern and Berrettini should take him to deeper waters than he did at Flushing Meadows a couple of years ago. I’m still leaning towards the Spanish legend but anything shy of four lengthy sets would surprise.