Rafael Nadal could win a historic 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open this weekend – but the Spaniard is focused on his semi-final on Thursday.
Rafael Nadal is distancing himself from the prospect of becoming the most decorated male tennis player in the sport’s history ahead of his Australian Open semi-final clash with Matteo Berrettini, according to his coach Carlos Moya.
Nadal will move clear of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer atop the all-time ratings if he secures a 21st career Grand Slam at Melbourne Park. The Spaniard has impressed throughout the tournament, dropping just three sets en route to a semi-final berth.
He is chasing a second title Down Under after winning the Australian Open back in 2009 – and Nadal was forced to grind out a tough five-set win over Canadian star Denis Shapovalov. Nadal saw off the 22-year-old in a thriller, triumphing 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3.
The Australian Open provides a terrific opportunity for Nadal to assume top spot in Majors, particularly after world number one Djokovic was sensationally deported from the country.
Despite a last-gasp appeal to play, Australian authorities controversially opted to revoke his visa.
Federer is still recovering from a chronic knee injury that has plagued him for the last few years, and he is expected to remain out of action for a few more months at least.
Nadal, who will face Berrettini on Thursday for a spot in the final, is reportedly not thinking about the history he could claim this weekend, according to Moya. His coach insisted there has been little discourse about the prospect of setting the all-time record.
“We don’t talk about it but obviously we dream about it and will be talking about it on Sunday hopefully,” Moya told reporters.
“There have been many things to talk about these past few weeks as you know, but we don’t talk about 21.
“We know it’s there, there’s pressure too but we avoid putting too much importance on it. Rafa has said plenty of times his happiness does not depend on it.
“So, if it happens, we will talk about it on Sunday but for now, the focus is on this week, to recover and on Friday’s match.”
Nadal is set to face a difficult opponent in Berrettini and, rather remarkably, the two have met just once before on the ATP Tour when they clashed in the semi-finals of the 2019 US Open. The Spaniard won in straight sets on that occasion, but the 25-year-old will fancy his chances after a terrific win over Gael Monfils.
Former world number four Brad Gilbert recently suggested that the Italian could cause problems for Nadal due to his explosive playing style and powerful serves.
“His game is all based on surf and turf, that’s what wins it for him,” Gilbert told the ATP Tour website. “If he’s going to win, he’s bombing serves, bombing first-ball forehands, taking control. If Rafa gets on offence and can make him work, it’s trouble.
“That’s what he did at the US Open, he broke down the backhand. But if that guy is serving the way he can serve, he serves big, but you don’t know how much energy he’s expended.
“When a guy has a monster forehand, you want to be able to take him hard and fast to the forehand because he’s always looking to be on the backhand side of the court hitting forehands.
“The ultimate goal is to be able to take him hard and fast to the forehand to open up more space to the backhand.”