Rafael Nadal progressed to his sixth Australian Open final with a four-set victory over Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in Melbourne.
The Spaniard, 35, who didn’t even know if he would make the first Slam of the year a few months ago because of a foot issue, won 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3.
Having scraped through a dramatic quarter-final contest with Denis Shapovalov a couple of days ago, there were doubts over how well Nadal would recover.
Rafael Nadal celebrates winning match point as he progressed into the Australian Open final
The Spaniard soaks up the applause of the crowd on Rod Laver Arena after his four set win
An emotional Nadal marks his victory over Berrettini with the final to come on Sunday
Nadal buried his head in his bag to conceal his emotions after the semi-final win on Friday
But after two sets he was in complete control of the match, which was played under the roof at the Rod Laver Arena with Melbourne hit by thunderstorms.
Berrettini fought back to win the third set but Nadal dug deep to prevail in four and is now only one match away from becoming the first man to win 21 Grand Slam singles titles.
Nadal was in tears as the emotion poured out after he sealed victory, even burying his head inside his racquet bag at one point.
He will face either the US Open champion Daniil Medvedev or the French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final.
Berrettini (left) fought back strongly having lost the first two sets but Nadal would prevail
Nadal now has the opportunity to move clear of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic by winning the 21st Grand Slam title of his illustrious career
Nadal’s achievement in reaching his 29th Grand Slam final is even more impressive given he feared a foot injury could end his storied career just a few months ago.
He said afterwards: ‚I think I started the match playing great – one of the best since a long time.
‚I know how good Matteo is, very solid and I knew in the third he was going to go for the shots.
‚We need to suffer and we need to fight. That is the only way to be where I am today. It means a lot to be in the final again.‘
The match looked to be turning when Berrettini took the third set but Nadal rallied well
On the chance to make history with title No 21, Nadal added: ‚For me it’s all about the Australian Open more than anything else. It’s an amazing event.
‚I’ve been unlucky with a few injuries. I was close a couple of times. I never thought about another chance in 2022.‘
Berrettini, the seventh seed in Melbourne, started nervously in only his third Slam semi-final and Nadal was able to exploit his weaker backhand in the opening stages.
The Italian, who was a beaten finalist at Wimbleton last year, wasn’t able to lay a glove on Nadal initially but fought back well in the third set.
Nadal at full stretch to make a return in a semi-final played under the roof on Rod Laver Arena
In the only previous meeting between the pair, at the US Open in 2019, Berrettini had not even created a break point. But he finally managed it here in the eighth game of the sixth set they have contested.
His big forehand game came into play and that proved a crucial factor in him taking the third set.
It looked like a turning point with Nadal, the sixth seed, looking fatigued at the beginning of the fourth after his epic with Shapovalov.
But he dug in to keep level on serve and pounced when he sensed an opportunity. The Italian saved one break point at 3-4 following a tense rally but then fired his forehand into the net before Nadal saw it home.
Berrettini’s wait to beat a top 10 opponent at a Slam continues.
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