November 20, 2020
Rafael Nadal overcame Stefanos Tsitsipas to book his first semi-final spot for five years in this truly intense tournament.
One delicious shot, a leaping backhand cross-court smash, left his young opponent stranded and the rest of us speechless.
We did say from the start that Nadal meant business this time around.
In fact we thought Tsitsipas would be given a more torrid time than he was.
But the young Greek is improving and gave Rafa a good run for his money.
In the end, however, Nadal’s extraordinary work at the net often made the difference.
In our rush to hail Rafa as one of the kings of the baseline, we sometimes forget how good he is further forward.
Against Tsitsipas, Nadal gave us another timely reminder. The result was a scintillating 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 triumph.
It was a tight battle until the ultimate submission of a frustrated Stefanos. And it took a true all-rounder to emerge victorious.
There was only one break in the first nineteen games. Suddenly we were treated to four in succession.
The first came from the reigning champion, to level the set-count.
Nadal struck immediately in the decider, only for Tsitsipas to break back bravely.
The surprise on Rafa’s face was noticeable. But it only lasted seconds.
The older man composed himself and conjured that memorable backhand smash on the way to yet another break.
It was decisive. Hard as Tsitsipas fought to redress the balance, the Spaniard consolidated and held his nerve to close out with a beautiful pass down the line.
Rafa said: ‘It’s a very positive thing for me to reach the semi-final and I’m very happy and excited to be there.’
His next match against Daniil Medvedev promises to be a classic. The Russian is absolutely rampant right now.
Everything Medvedev tries at the moment seems to work in the most ruthlessly natural way.
Can Nadal somehow dampen Daniil’s fire with his know-how and variation? It’s possible.
Whatever happens, this is going to be one beautiful scrap.
Meanwhile Dominic Thiem doesn’t yet know his opponent in the other semi-final.
That will become clear once Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev do battle on Friday.
Thiem lost 2-6, 5-7 to Andrey Rublev. Even the gracious winner admitted Thiem was ‘already focused on the semis.’
It’s been a wonderful ATP Tour Finals already.
So just think how good Wimbledon 2021 is going to be! Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Andy Murray and so many more will be added to the mix!
Tennis has never looked better. We just can’t wait for the next spectacular.