January 24, 2019
Rafael Nadal will take some stopping on this kind of form.
He pulverised the hopes of young Stefanos Tsitsipas with an admirable, brutal ruthlessness.
It wasn’t that the Greek played badly. Some of his volleying was sensational.
But Nadal wasn’t in the mood to be questioned or denied. His serve and backhand look stronger than ever. His game more versatile.
Rafa’s 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 triumph included an incredible round-the-net pass and an outrageous lob.
There was as much skill as power in the Spaniard’s masterful game.
Even the great Novak Djokovic, should he too make the final, will be hard pushed to make a dent in Nadal’s iron will.
And yet Rafa wasn’t highly fancied going into the tournament. Nagging injuries seemed to be holding him back.
But it’s amazing what a good rest from competition can do. Rafa was fresh, inventive, amazing.
Tsitsipas tried what he could. And when little or none of it worked, his confidence ebbed away.
The younger man’s time will come. His progression has been rapid and he must be delighted with his tournament overall.
But to win a Slam, you need a wealth of grit and tactical nouse as well as talent and flamboyance.
That will come with age. Nadal said afterwards: ‘Stefanos has everything to become a multi-Grand Slam champion.’
But not yet. Rafa is too rampant. He admitted: ‘It’s been a great tournament and I’ve played well every day. It feels really good to be in the final again.’
Petra Kvitova also looked like a player in complete control as she dispatched Danielle Collins in their semi-final.
The two-time Wimbledon champion is at the height of her powers once more.
It is an extraordinary comeback when her career could have been at an end two years ago.
A knife in her serving wrist during a home invasion left her on the brink.
Now she is back with a bang, fitter than ever, looking better than anyone else in this first Slam of 2019.
Naomi Osaka will provide a stern test in the final after seeing off Karolina Pliskova.
But if Kvitova can cope with Osaka’s searing diagonals, her story of recovery will be blissfully complete.