10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Ricky’s preview and picks for the Australian Open semifinals: Nadal vs. Berrettini and Medvedev vs. Tsitsipas

By Ricky Dimon

It’s semifinal Friday at the Australian Open. Yes, both men’s singles matches will be played on the same day–whereas they had previously been broken up across Thursday and Friday. Now there is no rest advantage for either side of the draw heading into the final. A blockbuster lineup awaits.

Here are my previews and picks for the two semifinal matchups on Day 12 of the year’s first Grand Slam.

(7) Matteo Berrettini vs. (6) Rafael Nadal

Their only previous encounter also came at the business end of a Grand Slam, as Nadal got the best of Berrettini 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-1 in the 2019 quarterfinals. Interestingly, the Italian earned his spot in that U.S. Open matchup by outlasting Gael Monfils in five sets in the previous round; that is exactly what he did this time around, as well. Now it is Nadal who hopes the same trends continue, as not only did he beat Berrettini but he also went on to capture the title in New York City.

Neither man had an easy time setting up this rematch.

Prior to holding off Monfils 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 6-2 on Tuesday night, Berrettini needed four sets against Brandon Nakashima and Stefan Kozlov in addition to another five-setter against Carlos Alcaraz plus a competitive three-setter against Pablo Carreno Busta. The seventh-ranked Italian has reached at least the quarterfinals of four consecutive majors, including the semis twice–here and last summer at Wimbledon, when he went all the way to the title match before falling to Novak Djokovic. Amazingly, Berrettini is 21-0 in his last 21 Grand Slam matches against opponents other than Djokovic.

Nadal mostly raced through his first three matches of the fortnight against Marcos Giron, Jannik Hanfmann, and Karen Khachanov–although he did drop one set to Khachanov. Things got tricky in a 28-minute first-set tiebreaker with Adrian Mannarino on Sunday, but the 35-year-old pulled away for a 7-6(14), 6-2, 6-2 victory. Nadal then faced his toughest test in the quarters, where he dealt with a mid-match stomach problem but ended up prevailing over Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 after four hours and eight minutes.

The fact that Nadal gets two days off could be the deciding factor in Friday’s semifinal, because on a level playing field this is a favorable matchup for him–at least on anything other than grass. Look for the Spaniard to break down the Berrettini backhand and advance.

Pick: Nadal in 4

(4) Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. (2) Daniil Medvedev

Medvedev and Tsitsipas first faced each other at the 2018 Miami Masters, when Medvedev prevailed 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 and they had to be separated by the chair umpire during a post-match altercation. There has been no love lost ever since, even though incidents have been few and far between for the most part aside from some verbal jousting in the press room. On the court Medvedev leads the head-to-head series 6-2 after a pair of 2021 Grand Slam encounters were split. The Russian rolled 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 in the Aussie Open semis before Tsitsipas capitalized on his favorite surface and gave his opponent a 6-3, 7-6(3), 7-5 clay-court lesson in the French Open quarters. Medvedev has won all four of their previous outdoor hard-court meetings.

If there is good news for Tsitsipas, it’s that roles are somewhat reversed from last year’s showdown at Melbourne Park. Heading into that semifinal, Tsitsipas was coming off a five-set struggle with Rafael Nadal while Medvedev had been thrashing his opponents. This time around, Tsitsipas crushed Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the quarters before Medvedev survived the match of the tournament–saving a match point and overcoming Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7(4), 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5, 6-4 in four hours and 42 minutes.

Fortunately for Medvedev, he is one of the fittest guys on tour. The world No. 2 had also dropped just two total sets prior to the quarters, so energy conservation earlier in the tournament should help the recovery process.

Tsitsipas’ success Down Under is far more surprising. An elbow injury at the end of 2021 that forced him out of the Nitto ATP Finals continued to plague him at this month’s ATP Cup. The 23-year-old Greek was in doubt to even play the Aussie Open, but he managed to get ready for it and so far the rest is history. Tsitsipas preceded his rout of Sinner with victories over Mikael Ymer, Sebastian Baez, Benoit Paire, and Taylor Fritz. Only the Ymer match was routine, and Fritz had him on the ropes in a five-setter on Monday.

This should be a fun one, but based on current form it is Medvedev who remains the more reliable player–even though he just endured that thriller against Auger-Aliassime. The second seed showed incredible mental fortitude in the pressure-packed moments on Wednesday and that could also be the difference against Tsitsipas.

Pick: Medvedev in 4

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *