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Nadal ends Tsitsipas run with robust reality check

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Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in their semifinal at the Australian Open. Photo@ Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in their semifinal at the Australian Open. Photo@ Mark Schiefelbein/AP

AP

Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in their semifinal at the Australian Open. Photo@ Mark Schiefelbein/AP

The Tspecial One? Not just yet. Stefanos Tsitsipas has been the breakthrough star of this Australian Open, but the reality of men's tennis is that 20-year-olds do not win Grand Slams.

Having taken out Roger Federer on Sunday, Tsitsipas went on to say that he wanted to pull off the "complete" tournament by overcoming Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as well.

It was the sort of thing you might expect this fearless young musketeer to come out with. You feel he would back himself in a cage fight with a hungry lion.

But Nadal put Tsitsipas back in his box, in the short term at least, as he handed out a 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 thrashing in just 106 minutes.

This was such a tennis lesson that when the cameras cut away to Tsitsipas's 11-year-old sister, Elisavet, in the stands, she had her hands pressed to her head in despair.

"He has this talent that no other player has," said Tsitsipas in an insightful analysis of Nadal's game.

"He makes you play bad. My brain was used to a certain rhythm of the game with all the 'righty' players that I played this week."

This is Nadal's first tournament since the US Open, but you would not know it from the way he is unloading on every shot like a 36lb cannon. He and his coach, former world No 1 Carlos Moya, spent their elongated off-season working on a plan to lower his workload.

They focused first on his serve, which he remodelled over the winter in the search of more pace and penetration.

And then on adding extra bite to the forehand, trying to flatten out the ball's trajectory - on the most aggressive shots, at least - so that it would zip through the court more quickly.

"After a lot of months without playing, it is probably this court, this crowd, that gives me the energy," said Nadal, who will surely be preparing himself mentally for a meeting with Djokovic on Sunday.

Djokovic still has to overcome Lucas Pouille in today's semi-final, which starts at 8.30am Irish time.

  • Novak Djokovic v Lucas Pouille, Live, Eurosport 1, 8.30am

Irish Independent