Rafael Nadal is certainly not treating tennis’ next generation well at the Australian Open.
Add 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas to the list of youngsters Nadal has bullied on his way to his fifth final at Melbourne Park and 25th at all Grand Slam tournaments.
It took Nadal, 32, just the first few minutes of Thursday’s match to show Tsitsipas — and everyone else — that the kid’s upset of Roger Federer was not going to be replicated on this night. Not even close. Breaking Tsitispas in the third game and then another five times while not facing even a break point himself until the last game of the match, Nadal won 6-2, 6-4, 6-0.
“It felt like a different dimension of tennis completely,” said the 14th-seeded Tsitsipas, a blank expression on his face. “He gives you no rhythm. He plays just a different game style than the rest of the players. He has this, I don’t know, talent that no other player has. I’ve never seen a player have this. He makes you play bad.”
It was the same straight-set, no-contest treatment Nadal gave to 19-year-old Alex de Minaur in the third round and 21-year-old Frances Tiafoe in the quarterfinals.
Asked if he was trying to make a statement with the way he soundly defeated these up-and-coming talents, Nadal said: “They don’t need any message, no. They are good. They’re improving every month. So it’s always a big challenge to play against them.”
Sure hasn’t seemed like it.
Tsitsipas’ run to the first major semifinal of his nascent career was most notable for the way he beat 20-time major champion Federer in the fourth round, saving 12 of 12 break points across four sets and 3 hours, 45 minutes.
But the left-handed Nadal was a much more difficult puzzle to solve.
On Sunday, the Spaniard will try to earn his second Australian Open title — he previously won the hard-court event in 2009 — and his 18th Slam trophy.
That final will come against either top-seeded Novak Djokovic or Lucas Pouille, who meet Friday.