Nadal and Medvedev will take part in the Australian Open final
MELBOURNE, Australia — Once again, the last defense against the No. 21 will be Daniil Medvedev.
He’s got quite the temper, as he showed in an extraordinary rant against a chair umpire on Friday, and he’s become quite the spoiler with his long, springy limbs and unconventional, often outside the lines approach. , to build points and demolish opponents. game plans and dreams.
In last year’s US Open final, the 6ft 6in Russian prevented Novak Djokovic from completing the Grand Slam, which requires winning all four major tournaments in the same calendar year, and also prevented Djokovic from breaking his tie with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. for most major career titles.
On Sunday, with the three men who dominated that era still tied with 20 Grand Slam titles each, Medvedev will face Nadal in the Australian Open final.
“It’s a big rivalry,” Medvedev said of tennis’ Big Three – Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. “I’m happy to have the chance to try to prevent someone from making history once again.”
But Medvedev, 25 and with just one major title to his name, also has the luxury of staying above the fray.
“I just try to focus on myself, on doing my job,” he said. “I know what’s going on. I know what Rafa wants. I knew what Novak wanted to do. I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m trying not to listen to that.’ But that’s kind of their thing, not mine.
Medvedev’s stuff has established itself as the sport’s new leader, at least on hard courts which suit his game and comfort zone much better than clay or grass at the moment.
Nadal got an extended glimpse of Medvedev’s protean ways and new-age talents in the 2019 US Open final when Medvedev changed tactics after losing the first two sets. He started attacking the net to break up long rallies and shoved Nadal for almost five hours before losing in the fifth set.
They haven’t faced each other on an outdoor hard court since then, and although the two played their semi-final matches indoors under a closed roof at Rod Laver Arena due to rain, the weather should be clear. Sunday when they meet in Melbourne.
“I face my toughest rival of the whole tournament in the final,” Nadal said.
That might not have been true if Djokovic could have played. He won the Australian Open a men’s record nine times, including the last three, but in one of the most stunning twists in tennis history, he was kicked out of Australia on the eve of the tournament after that his visa was revoked by the federal government and his final appeal was denied.
Sixth-seeded Nadal was initially in the half of seeded Djokovic’s draw but ended up facing No.7 seed Matteo Berrettini in the semi-finals. He feasted on Berrettini’s weaker backhand wing and broke Italy’s powerful serve four times to win, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
Medvedev also won in four sets, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, although Medvedev’s victory was considerably more tumultuous. After losing serve in the ninth game of the second set and receiving a code violation for an obscenity which he says was misinterpreted, Medvedev angrily shouted at chair umpire Jaume Campistol for most of the substitution. . He suggested that Tsitsipas’ father was illegally coaching his son from the players’ box.
“Are you stupid? His dad can talk about all the points?” Medvedev said from his chair shouting ‘Look at me!’ at the Spanish official when Campistol turned his gaze to the court in an attempt to defuse the situation.
It was an extraordinary explosion, a flashback to past combustible champions like John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase. But after behaving rudely, Medvedev at least looked sheepish.
“I regret it all the time, because I don’t think it’s right,” he said of the mistreatment of chair umpires. “I know that every referee tries to do their best. But, yeah, when you’re there, tennis, you know, you don’t fight with your fists, but tennis is a fight. It’s a against one against another player. So I’m actually very respectful of players who never, almost never show their emotions because, I mean, it’s hard, it’s hard, because I become, I can become very emotional.
Medvedev said he couldn’t be sure if Apostolos Tsitsipas was coaching his son. He said all he could hear was his commentary during the game in Greek, which Medvedev doesn’t speak. Part of Medvedev’s frustration with Campistol was that he didn’t speak Greek either. But tournament officials quickly placed Greek referee Eva Asderaki-Moore in a tunnel within earshot of the players’ box. After Tsitsipas received a training warning early in the fourth set, he failed to win another game and Medvedev sped through to the end.
Tsitsipas, whose relationship with Medvedev has long been frosty, smiled when asked about Friday’s outburst.
“It sure is funny,” he said. “I don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff. Players like to do things like this to mentally unsettle you. Maybe a tactic. Its good. He’s not the most mature person anyway.
Coaching violations are nothing new for Tsitsipas. He had already received two in the tournament but insisted he was not coached on Friday even though he felt it should be allowed during matches.
“It’s something he does from nature,” Tsitsipas said. “I told him about it. I tried.”
Medvedev worked on himself after losing his temper so often in his early years. He showed Zen master composure in his second-round loss to Australian Nick Kyrgios last week with Kyrgios pushing the crowd, but Friday was a big step backwards in self-control if not control of the ball. The week has been difficult for referee-player relations.
Canadian Denis Shapovalov lashed out at Carlos Bernardes in the quarter-finals for appearing to show favoritism towards Nadal by not penalizing him for his delays. Shapovalov, 22, barked “You’re all corrupt” at Bernardes and then backed down from that statement, but still received the biggest fine of the tournament: $8,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct. Medvedev will also be fined.
“In the heat of the moment, I just lost it,” he said.
Such behavior contrasts with that of Nadal, who has never broken a racket in anger during his 20-year career. Federer, although generally well mannered, cannot say the same. But young male tennis stars, including Kyrgios, set a bolder tone with their behavior and sometimes with each other (see Medvedev and Tsitsipas). The generation gap has not gone unnoticed.
“We know what Rafa’s mentality is like in life,” Medvedev said. “I don’t know if I should call him that, but he’s like a perfect guy.”
Nadal, who likes to undersell and oversell, surely wouldn’t describe himself that way, but he’s in an optimistic state of mind after missing most of the second half of the 2021 season with a foot problem. chronic and recently recovered from coronavirus. . This is his sixth and most surprising Australian Open final, and he was in tears on the court on Friday and said he discussed retirement with his family last year.
“It’s a particularly moving achievement,” Nadal said. “It means so much to me, maybe because it’s so unexpected.”
He has only won this title once, beating Federer in 2009 and Federer collapsing at the awards ceremony. Since then, Nadal has experienced a lot of heartache here: losing a 2012 final to Djokovic that lasted 5 hours 53 minutes, leaving both men struggling to stand, then losing another marathon final to Federer in 2017 despite a 3-1 lead. in the fifth set.
Now Nadal has a chance to stand out, although he continues to insist that finishing first in the Grand Slam pursuit is not his obsession or even his priority.
“To be very honest, for me it is much more important to have the chance to play tennis than to win 21, right? he said.
He played a lot in Melbourne and now, at 35, comes what seems to be the most difficult part: an intergenerational duel with a rival who, like Nadal, comes back from far behind the baseline and covers the ground with surprising speed. but who can also slap winners and aces in flurries with flat power and possesses the long reach to neutralize Nadal’s topspin forehand.
Nadal seems to know what he’s up against: “If I’m not able to play at my best,” he said, “there just won’t be a chance.”