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Rafael Nadal breaks, beats Stefanos Tsitsipas for 5th Australian Open final

/ 07:22 PM January 24, 2019
 Rafael Nadal

Spain’s Rafael Nadal makes a backhand return to Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas during their semifinal at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

MELBOURNE, Australia— Rafael Nadal needed all of 11 minutes in his Australian Open semifinal to show 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas — and everyone else — that the kid’s upset of Roger Federer was not going to be replicated on this night.

Not even close.

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Breaking Tsitispas in the match’s third game and then another five times Thursday, while never facing a single break point himself until the very last game, Nadal bullied his way to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 victory that put him into his fifth final at Melbourne Park and 25th at all Grand Slam tournaments.

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.

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But Nadal was a much more difficult puzzle to solve.

On Sunday, the 32-year-old Spaniard will try to earn his second Australian Open title — he 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 play Friday.

A title would make Nadal only the third man in the sport’s history to win each Grand Slam at least twice, joining retired Australian greats Rod Laver — a front-row spectator Thursday night in an arena named for him — and Roy Emerson.

After a series of health issues, Nadal is once again the relentless forehand-whipping force that can dominate anyone. He quit during his quarterfinal match at Melbourne Park a year ago because of a right leg problem, then stopped again during his semifinal at the U.S. Open in September because of a painful right knee. That was followed by offseason surgery on his right ankle.

Even though he is wearing a strip of tape over an abdominal muscle that troubled him in the past, Nadal has been terrific in Australia, winning all 18 sets he has played.

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TAGS: Australian Open, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Tennis
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