‘He has this talent that no other player has… he makes you play bad’: Stefanos Tsitsipas left bewildered as Rafael Nadal continues to swat away next generation of stars at Australian Open
- Stefanos Tsitsipas was left bewildered as Rafael Nadal brushed him aside easily
- The Spaniard continued to dominate the next generation of stars in Melbourne
- Tsitsipas was left dazed and confused by the Spaniard’s special abilities on court
- Nadal admitted he was worried about his form after a near four month absence
Rafael Nadal versus the next generation at this Australian Open has been like a one-sided game of Whack A Mole.
Up their heads pop and down comes the mallet, the 32 year-old Spaniard hammering them back in their place to let them know that they still have plenty to do.
It happened here to fast rising Australian teenager Alex De Minaur, then to quarter finalist Frances Tiafoe and then, more surprisingly, it happened to Stefanos Tsitsipas, who got particularly ferocious treatment in the last four.
Stefanos Tsitsipas was left bewildered as Rafael Nadal swat him aside at the Australian Open
The Spaniard roars in celebration after confirming his place in Sunday’s Australian Open final
The nearest Nadal came to an upset was when he retreated to the locker room to change clothes after the second set, only to be confronted when stark naked by commentator John McEnroe, who was in there for a comfort break of his own.
Nadal is into his fifth Melbourne final for the loss of no sets and just 48 games in six rounds, and he was awaiting the winner of the second semi-final between Novak Djokovic and France’s world number 31 Lucas Pouille.
Poor Tsitsipas had a rare schooling, beaten 6-2 6-4 6-0 before an expectant Rod Laver Arena. He will be back, and so will his hordes of new fans from this city’s Greek population. For now, though, any generational shift looks to be on hold, even if Nadal paid them some polite lip service later.
The 20 year-old, who had dramatically beaten Roger Federer in the last sixteen, was left dazed and confused, as he admitted.
‘He has this talent that no other player has. I’ve never seen a player have this. He makes you play bad,’ analysed the young Greek. ‘His game style has something that it kind of makes the other half of your brain work more than it usually does.
‘I’m just trying to think how Federer beat him so much…similar game style like me.’
Tstitsipas takes a breather in his seat after he was blown away in his first Major semi-final
Tsitsipas will figure it out one day, but he is not the only one left wondering how Nadal has suddenly exploded back into form at this event, and cruised to the final with no match having gone past two and a half hours in length.
Nadal ended up playing only nine tournaments last year, and only seven of those were properly completed without him pulling out through injury.
He did win five of those, but came in here not having played an official event since the US Open. He played one exhibition match in Abu Dhabi after Christmas and then withdrew late from the Brisbane International nursing a thigh complaint.
Since arriving here he has been destroying allcomers, helped by a serve that is more effective through being hit with a slightly flatter trajectory.
But then when you have reached 25 Grand Slam finals you learn a little bit about picking up where you have left off. Nadal admitted that he was nonetheless worried about his form after a near four month absence from competitive play ‘It’s normal that you have doubts about me, because I have doubts about me,’ he said.
Nadal shakes hands with Tsitsipas after the end of their one-sided semi-final on Thursday
‘It’s true that if that happens 10 years ago probably will be a much more difficult situation for me because I needed always to be on rhythm, to play good tennis.
‘I believe that when you are older, you lose less the tennis when you are playing less. You don’t need that many matches to play well. That’s something that happened for the last two years for me. Probably one of the reasons is because I am practicing well when I am not competing. The feelings have been positive since during December.
‘In Brisbane I had a great week of practice. I never stopped practicing. I had that thing in the thigh, leg, small strain there, the doctors didn’t allow me to go on court. But the way I am playing, I didn’t expect that at all.’
Given Djokovic’s incredible record at this tournament, which has seen him win six of the last eleven editions, it is difficult to see him not beating Pouille.
That being the case the likelihood is that on Sunday evening the Spaniard will be meeting the Serb for an incredible 53rd time.