What was a seemingly controlled evening changed radically. When Rafael Nadal I was practically chewing the semifinals of this Open de Australia, the unexpected happened: Stefanos Tsitsipas, on the verge of surrender, he straightened up, saw a ray of light and consummated a historic comeback on Melbourne’s center court, separating the Spaniard from the dream of achieving his 21st major and thus overtaking Roger Federer in the great historic race. The Greek ended up imposing himself in a night that passed like a thriller, with a very different outcome to that which was sensed after the first leg of a match split in two: 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 and 7-5, after 4h 05m.
Nadal had it under control, until in the tie break of the third set his game got dirty, he hit three frank balls badly when he was ahead and suddenly, although moments before he was mired in the mud, Tsitsipas rose. The Greek, one of those young people who aspires to end the establishment of the three giants and to mark the beginning of a new stage, he did not lose faith and took advantage of the outbreak of the Balearic Islands to compose himself and definitely stand up to him. When no one suspected it, perhaps only the Athenian, the pulse took a radical turn and what two hours before was being an exhibition led to an ugly, ugly situation, one emerging in his game and the other decreasing in spirit. Start all over again. And uphill for Nadal.
Until that blob, number two had offered his best version in the tournament. Very intoned at the service, without opening the door once or leaving the slightest crack for his rival, he hit the first three options of break that he arranged and found a juicy vein on the opponent’s right, which before him tends to falter on the backhand. Tsitsipas could rush, nervous, determined to constantly gamble with two or three strokes, while Nadal, patient and authoritarian, only accelerated when it suited him, simmering a victory that he had in his hands until he suffered that blowout so abrupt, totally unexpected.
First a failed smash and then he erred again in another, curt, excessively conservative; then made a cane with the backhand and the rival went ahead. Tsitsipas – who came fresh, without having played in the previous season against Matteo Berrettini due to the Italian’s injury – got his wings and, who found a track, flew. Knowing himself lost, he found an oasis in those three Spanish lapses and he revived. Seen what was seen, he could not imagine. Everything changed, everything was different. Tied that sleeve, the boy from Athens gave a tremendous acceleration and his game soared as Nadal had doubts with the serve and the percentages began to decline. The Spanish lost finesse, his ball no longer hurt. From nothing to everything, Tsitsipas guessed the opportunity and went all out for it.
The curve was completely reversed. The Greek took out the square and the bevel, and began to find the gaps that had previously been denied him. At the fourth break option he had, he was right (for 5-4, in the fourth quarter) and was opening a gap towards a victory that leaves their mark. Both physically and emotionally, Nadal began to go in tow and the good feelings of the first section of the night were lost. In service, Tsitsipas had no choice. He perhaps recalled the impudence he used two years ago in Spain, when he brought down the Balearic in the Madrid arena. Then he already showed that he was going to be a thorny adversary, endorsing him in the present with an amazing comeback. Until now, only Italian Fabio Fognini had been able to lift two sets against Nadal in a big one. It was in New York, in 2015.
This time, the landmark bears the signature of a young man looking surfer that is consolidating in the noble floor of the circuit. Tsitsipas had arrests, scratched a gold break in the eleventh set of the epilogue and dodged the moment of maximum difficulty, when the Spaniard frustrated the first two match points and then had an option to snatch the serve. It would have been a 6-6, another movie, probably. But it held. Nadal volleyed in a strange way and later, the winner put the signature with a parallel setback that ended this rugged adventure of the Mallorcan in the Antipodes. He held her back, touched, but it lacked definition.
Now, Tsitsipas will be measured with Daniil Medvedev, a fierce competitor who will arrive thrown into the crash. The Russian defeated his compatriot Rublev (7-5, 6-3 and 6-2) and achieved his 19th victory since breaking through in November on the Paris-Bercy track. There he won the title and then has continued to add: another five triumphs and the trophy in the Masters Cup, four more and the title of the ATP Cup, and the five that he has now enshrined in Melbourne, where he continues to demonstrate, in addition, that he is strong with the strong. The victory against Rublev put him for the first time in the third step of the ranking – Overthrowing Dominic Thiem, eliminated in the round of 16 – and meant his eleventh consecutive victory against members of the top-10.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.