Rafael Nadal is off to a strong start in his Australian Open semifinal against Matteo Berrettini, claiming the first two sets 6-3 6-2.
The pair took to court on Friday afternoon, just as a dramatic cool change swept across Melbourne.
It will have been welcomed by Nadal, who struggled in Melbourne’s heat on Tuesday in his five-set epic against Denis Shapovaloy. His coach later reported the champion Spaniard battled heat stroke and lost four kilograms in the process.
Conditions for Friday’s semifinal were far milder, with temperatures at Melbourne Park plunging 10 degrees in about an hour and rain pelting on the firmly-shut roof over centre court.
After two days of rest, Nadal appeared recovered and ready to fight for his spot in the final.
Berrettini struggled to gain ground in his service games, Nadal taking advantage and breaking his serve immediately.
Berrettini didn’t seem to be at his best, with a physio assisting him half an hour in. However, no treatment was given and it was unclear what the issue was.
His form further slumped in the second set, Nadal swiftly breaking two service games.
Berrettini struggled to move the ball to Nadal’s backhand, the Spaniard forcing him to dart around the court using his ruthless left-handed forehand.
He recovered slightly, banking two service games, but it wasn’t enough to snare the second set.
The Italian has remained on the defensive, yet to break back – nor create a break point opportunity.
Despite the gloomy weather outside, the stands were packed to watch the pair compete for a slot in the finals.
And even more will be able to watch the remainder of the finals – including Ash Barty’s historic title tilt – in person, Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula announced on Friday afternoon.
“I’m pleased to advise that following consideration of a request from Tennis Australia for a higher cap, the ticketed capacity of the AO has been increased to 80% for the finals on Saturday & Sunday,” Mr Pakula wrote.
Next up: Tsitsipas v Medvedev
In an unusual move for the Australian Open, the tournament has scheduled the two men’s singles semi-finals back-to-back, with fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and second seed Daniil Medvedev to face off at 7:30pm.
Tsitsipas only has eyes for a maiden Australian Open title with the Greek fan favourite declaring he’s “in the zone”.
A two-time semi-final loser at Melbourne Park, Tsitisipas is hoping it’s third time lucky in his latest final-four showdown.
Last year Medvedev and Tsitsipas met at the same stage, the Russian toppled Tsitsipas 6-4 6-2 7-5.
In the quarter-finals, Tsitsipas thrashed rising star Jannik Sinner 6-3 6-4 6-2 in comfortably his best match of the 2022 Open.
“So far it has been the most consistent and the best match I’ve had in the tournament,” the world No.4 said.
“I feel like I’m in the zone – I have no plans of getting out of it, it’s part of my game.”
Having replaced Djokovic as the tournament’s top-ranked player, Medvedev has the opportunity to live up to that lofty billing and set a new mark along the way.
The 2021 US Open champion is attempting to become the first man in the 55-season Open era to win his second major title in his next grand slam appearance.
-more to come