Tsitsipas* 3-6 2-6 6-6 2-2 Nadal (*denotes server)
Tsitsipas’s serve is all powerful at the moment. He serves to love, and with some ease.
Tsitsipas 3-6 2-6 6-6 1-2 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal’s facial expression has turned from implacable to grim determination, agitation, that type of thing. He is bouncing the ball fiercely before his serves and surges to 40-0. And then he holds to love.
at 6.19am EST
Tsitsipas* 3-6 2-6 6-6 1-1 Nadal (*denotes server)
An ace from Tsitsipas, his ninth, begins the game. He looks far more confident. And wins another point on his second serve. Then a clubbing backhand gains a foothold for Nadal. A couple of serving yips from Tsitsipas do not stop him going 40-15 up. And he serves out well. Nadal has not returned well.
Tsitsipas 3-6 2-6 6-6 0-1 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal looks a little shaken by his tie-break meltdown, and is making errors. It goes to 30-30. And the Greek claims a break point after a long rally. A smash and a shout of ‘vamos” takes it to deuce for Nadal. He forces Tsitsipas into an error to claim advantage. Then hammers a winner to claim the game.
Tsitsipas takes the third-set tie-break 7-6!
Tsitsipas 3-6 2-6 6-6 *Nadal (*denotes server)
An error from Tsitsipas costs him the first point. Then Nadal hoofs an overhead to level matters. That was a rare event. He had let it drop it too low. It goes to 2-1 when Tsitsipas cannot return serve. Then to 2-2 when Nadal makes an error from a lofted shot to the back of the court. 3-2 after a fine serve that Nadal’s backhand cannot return. It goes to 3-3-3 when Tsitsipas cannot get the angle of his return right. Then another error on an overhead from Nadal means it is the Greek who is ahead. And it goes to 5-3 after a shanked return. He serves and volleys to give himself three set points. Nadal’s drop shot takes one of them back. And Nadal has the serve for the next two points. He goes long to lose the set. 7-4.
Tsitsipas 3-6 2-6 6-6 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal’s run continues to go 30-0 up with some top-spinning forcing errors from his opponents. Then to 40-0. The spell is broken at 40-15 just when he almost served out every point in the set. That doesn’t deter. It goes to a tie-break.
Tsitsipas* 3-6 2-6 6-5 Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal takes the first point, just the third Tsitsipas has lost on his serve. Then Tsitsipas wins a great rally in which they both play some great shots. Nadal’s passing shot falls short and is stop-volley down. It goes to 30-15 after an ace. Then 40-15. Fine serving from the Greek. And his big hitting places Nadal’s serve in jeopardy by serving out the game.
at 5.45am EST
Tsitsipas 3-6 2-6 5-5 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal plays a wild shot but it lands in for 15-0. When your luck’s in, it’s in. Then he bullies his way through a rally, staying so close to the line yet just in. That makes it 24 points in a row on his serve. And against someone who is actually playing well at the moment.
Tsitsipas* 3-6 2-6 5-4 Nadal (*denotes server)
Tsitsipas is still serving well. It was at this point in the first set that he faltered and was broken. And a couple of aces takes him to within a game of winning the set. All he has to do is break Nadal.
Tsitsipas 3-6 2-6 4-4 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal is all-conquering on his own serve, making it 18 points in a row he has won. Then 19 with a bullet of an ace down the line. And 20 for another love service game.
Tsitsipas* 3-6 2-6 4-3 Nadal (*denotes server)
Tsitsipas sends Nadal chasing all over Melbourne to go 30-0 up. But then it goes to 30-15 with a backhand winner from Nadal. A clenched fist from Tsitsipas as it goes to 40-15. He then claims the game with some serve and volleying.
at 6.17am EST
Tsitsipas 3-6 2-6 3-3 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal begins with an ace. Then forces a backhand error from Tsitsipas. Then a forehand error. Then another one. Another love service game. Short work made of that. One minute and ten seconds.
Tsitsipas* 3-6 2-6 3-2 Nadal (*denotes server)
Some patience in the rally at last from the Greek. He goes to 40-0 – the serving is much improved – then at last loses a point on serve with a slicing attempt at a backhand winner down the line. He then serves out.
Tsitsipas 3-6 2-6 2-2 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal hasn’t lost his legs around the court. He sends Tsitsipas around the court and smashes an overhead to go to 30-0. Similar happens to go to 40-0. And yet another love service game results.
Tsitsipas* 3-6 2-6 2-1 Nadal (*denotes server)
That service improvement continues. He makes it ten in a row on serve when he goes 30-0 up. Then it goes to 11. And 12 with another service to love.
Tsitsipas 3-6 2-6 1-1 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal starts off with a ripping winning shot. Then a lovely forehand winner to go 30-0 up, then comes an ace. He’s flying.
Tsitsipas* 3-6 2-6 1-0 Nadal (*denotes server)
Tsitsipas, to his credit, is still going for his shots. There’s no other way. Long rallies are the Spaniard’s domain. He’s doing a tad better on his service at this point, and wins that game to love.
Nadal claims the second set 6-2!
Tsitsipas 3-6 2-6 Nadal* (*denotes server)
Tsitsipas beginning to look forlorn. He stares into space after netting a very gettable winner. Then he is forced to improvise and misses the line with a jumping backhand crasher. A fine serve gives Nadal two set points. Then Tsitsipas tries another big winner and can only hit the net. He’s in deep trouble here. Nadal looks imperious, completely unflustered.
at 5.14am EST
Tsitsipas* 3-6 2-5 Nadal (*denotes server)
A fightback of sort is appreciated by the faked crowd noise. The game is served out to love.
Tsitsipas 3-6 1-5 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal storms his service game and Tsitsipas looks woebegone. Nothing is working for him. He’s being brave in his shot selection but poor in his execution.
Tsitsipas* 3-6 1-4 Nadal (*denotes server)
This is getting ugly for Tsitsipas. He goes 30-0 down after some brutal forehands. Then it goes to 15-30 when Nadal takes on a long-range attempt at a winner. Tsitsipas’ conjures a winner with a whipping backhand to level. Great shot. Then Nadal hits the net cord and curses to hand over game point. It goes to deuce with a thrilling forehand winner. Then comes a net cord winner for break point for which Nadal apologises. Tsitsipas can only hit the net cord to concede another break.
Tsitsipas 3-6 1-3 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal has lost the first point of every service game so far and does so here too. He soon equalises with a winning forehand and a punch of the air. Then comes a mistake as he whips the ball out of play as space opened up. A wipe of the towel follows. That does the trick, and he levels at 30-30. Tsitsipas is spending a lot of time way behind the back of the court. It’s 40-30 with an ace. Then comes another of those whipped forehand winners, which nobody can return.
Tsitsipas* 3-6 1-2 Nadal (*denotes server)
Better serving from Tsitsipas gives some hope. He’s having to release the throttle to get back into the game. He wins the game to love, and with an ace on a second serve.
Tsitsipas 3-6 0-2 Nadal* (*denotes server)
The sound of birds can be heard, vultures we are told, and Nadal is tucking into Tsitsipas’s form with relish. He wins a long rally for 15-15 then serves brutally for 30-15. Then Tsitsipas’ volley goes into the net. He’s been far too loose. He loses the game with a failed winner down the line. The radar is off, while Nadal is flying.
Tsitsipas* 3-6 0-1 Nadal (*denotes server)
Another break! After a short break in which Nadal changes his very sweaty shirt – it is 26 degrees, having been over 30 most of the day in Melbourne – we are back. Tsitsipas tries to find his way back into the match but starts with an error to make it 15-15. Then comes an ace bang down the centre. Nadal makes it 30-30 with a chopping, sliced drop shot. Then he whacks a winner off a sliced drop shot with his double-handed back hand. The break is claimed with a dismissive forehand.
at 5.01am EST
Nadal wins the first set 6-3!
Tsitsipas 3-6* Nadal (*denotes server)
The Greek is unbowed after that break of serve and hits a mighty winner to claim the first point. He attempts the same to try and go 30-0 up and lashes the ball out of play. Better comes as he goes 30-15 up with a great return. The next return goes out to make it 30-30. Nadal looks fierce as he claims set point with some typical artillery. That’s snaffled up with a kick serve that can only be driven into the base of the net.
at 4.43am EST
Tsitsipas* 3-5 Nadal (*denotes server)
First break of the match! Tsitsipas points where Nadal has been sweating on the court. And asks for it to be cleaned up. Nadal looks unamused by the suggestion he is over-perspiring. The action gets underway with Tsitsipas coming to the net and smashing the ball home. The same happens for the next. A second serve chance is seized on by Nadal for 15-30, with a hooking winner. Then it goes to 30-30. Tsitsipas’s turn to sweat as Nadal grabs a break point with a backhand crash. The break is claimed when the Greek goes for a winner down the line and crashes off the net.
Tsitsipas 3-4 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal taking ages over his serves, and there seems to be a reason for that. Tsitsipas goes 30-0 up after two bad services from the Spaniard who recovers himself to win the next. And the next, which flies down the line. Then, after a 25-shot rally, Nadal works a winner through the open court. Then Tsitsipas scoops the ball high to concede the game.
Tsitsipas* 3-3 Nadal (*denotes server)
Tsitsipas begins with a kicking serve. He goes 30-15 down after a couple of errors before levelling after a long rally which ends with Nadal going long. He steps up to 40-30 when Nadal nets then wins the game with a towering smash.
Tsitsipas 2-3 Nadal* (*denotes server)
An error forced by Tsitsipas to start off, then Nadal whips a winner to equalise. Then Tsitsipas goes long. He wins the next, though, a rally, by coming to the net. Nadal celebrates a serve that Tsitsipas cannot return. Then the Greek’s backhand lets him down.
Tsitsipas* 2-2 Nadal (*denotes server)
Tsitsipas begins with an un-returnable serve, then sends Nadal on a run and he can’t dig out his shot. Then comes another ace. And then the game is served out to love.
at 4.56am EST
Tsitsipas 1-2 *Nadal (*denotes server)
Tsitsipas seems to fancy taking on the Nadal serve but to little avail. He’s blindsided by an ace for 30-0, and then the Spaniard bullies one down the line for 40-0. Much the same happens to seal the game.
Tsitsipas* 1-1 Nadal (*denotes server)
Nadal is sent around the court by the Greek’s backhand, and some decent serving, and the game is served out to love.
at 5.19am EST
Tsitsipas 0-1 Nadal* (*denotes server)
And away we go, with the veteran – he’s still only 34 – taking the honour. Tsitsipas’s return wins the first point but he nets the second. Then comes a long rally which ends with Tsitsipas’s attempted winner going just wide. A double fault makes it 30-30. Tsitsipas goes too long to hand over game point, and Nadal serves out to claim.
The players are on the court at the Rod Laver Arena, with Nadal in peach and Tsitsipas in a canary yellow. The knocking up begins to the tune of The Weeknd, pop pickers.
Daniil Medvedev awaits in the semi, having dealt with Andrey Rublev in three sets. Nadal in back in the quarter-finals, where he perished last year, losing to Dominic Thiem. Tsitsipas was a semi-finalist in 2019 but could only reach the third round last year. Nadal is looking to win only his second Australian Open, the sole victory coming in that 2009 epic win over Roger Federer.
The record between these two is six wins to Nadal to one from Tsitsipas, though the younger man did beat Nadal on clay once. Their last two meetings have been on the hard court at London’s ATP finals, and both went to the maximum three seats.
The stage is set though Covid restrictions stop any spectators being in the arena until tomorrow. Join me.
at 3.22am EST