Rafael Nadal cruises to Australian Open final
Spaniard beats Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 in Thursday's semifinal
Rafael Nadal made quick work of 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Australian Open semifinal Thursday, cruising to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 to earn his fifth trip to the finals in Melbourne.
Nadal hit 28 winners and never faced a break point until the final game in dispatching the Greek phenom in one hour, 46 minutes on a sweltering night.
"It was a great match, and it's been a great tournament," said Nadal, who won the Open in 2009. "I've played well every day. After a lot of months without playing, it's probably this court, this crowd, that is giving me that unbelievable energy."
Nadal pounced on Tsitipas from the jump, breaking him twice in the opener. The Spaniard served notice early that Tsitsipas, who ousted Roger Federer from the tournament, wasn't going to repeat that feat.
"It felt like a different dimension of tennis completely," Tsitsipas said. "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."
WATCH | Nadal cruises into final:
Nadal awaits Friday's other semifinal between world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and first-time Grand Slam semifinalist Lucas Pouille to find out who his opponent will be on Sunday.
"All semifinals are interesting and tough," Nadal said. "Novak is the favourite now, and he's been in that position so many times. For Lucas, it's the first one, but he won an amazing quarterfinal match and is playing so well.
"I always thought that Lucas is one of these players with amazing potential. He can beat everybody when he's playing well. So let's see. It's true that Novak is unbelievable, so for Lucas it will be difficult, but it's a tennis match - anything can happen."
Nadal will be playing for his second Australian Open title and 18th Grand Slam trophy on Sunday.
Two years ago, Petra Kvitova missed the Australian Open, just weeks after her racket-holding left hand was stabbed by an intruder at her home in the Czech Republic.
Two days from now, back at her best during what she calls her "second career," Kvitova will play for the championship at Melbourne Park.
Taking control after the court's retractable roof was closed as the temperature soared toward 38 C on Thursday, the No. 7-seeded Kvitova surged to a 7-6 (2), 6-0 semifinal victory over 35th-ranked American Danielle Collins.
"It means everything," Kvitova said of reaching her first major final since the December 2016 knife attack that led to hours of surgery on her hand.
Kvitova stretched her winning streak to 11 matches and has a chance to rise to No. 1 in the WTA rankings if she can collect her first Australian Open title to go alongside the two she earned at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014.
In Saturday's final, Kvitova will face reigning U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka or 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova.
It was Pliskova who saved four match points and came back from 5-1 down in the third set to stun Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.
Against Collins, a two-time NCAA champion at the University of Virginia who was 0-5 at major tournaments until last week, Kvitova was more aggressive throughout, mixing big lefty forehands and well-timed pushes forward to the tune of a 30-9 edge in total winners.
But the key to the outcome might very well have been what happened at 4-all after 35 minutes of action: That's when the decision finally was made to close the 15,000-seat stadium's cover, drawing cheers of approval from broiling spectators.
Happy with roof closing
Kvitova probably wanted to applaud, too.
"I was happier than the fans that the roof closed," she said afterward. "I like to play indoors. It helped me a little bit."
She's made clear over the years she is not a huge fan of playing in stifling heat. Not too many people truly are, of course, but someone like Collins, a 25-year-old from Florida, might be more used to that sort of thing.
The match was suspended for about five minutes and when play resumed, it went from being completely even to tilted in Kvitova's favour. She dominated the tiebreaker and the second set.
The chair umpire was Carlos Ramos, the official who penalized Williams a game in last year's chaotic U.S. Open final, and Collins got into a couple of testy exchanges with him.
First in the tiebreaker, then in the opening game of the second set, Collins protested that Ramos was applying rules differently than umpires had in her earlier matches. Whether or not there was merit to what she was saying, it seemed clear that the back-and-forths with Ramos didn't help Collins.
With files from Field Level Media