Rafael Nadal attempted to pick Stefanos Tsitsipas’ chin off the floor after ending the run of the exciting young Greek in brutal fashion to reach his 25th grand slam final.
Tsitsipas was looking to become only the third man after Juan Martin Del Potro and Novak Djokovic to beat both Roger Federer and Nadal at the same slam but was firmly put in his place as the Spaniard won 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 victory in just an hour and 46 minutes.
Nadal, who is yet to drop a set in Melbourne, will take on either Djokovic or Frenchman Lucas Pouille on Sunday.
Tsitsipas went into the match full of confidence and with the knowledge that he competed well against Nadal in their last meeting in Toronto last summer. But this was a very different story, and Tsitsipas looked shell-shocked in his post-match press conference, saying: “Honestly, I have no idea what I can take from that match. It felt like a different dimension of tennis completely. He has this talent that no other player has. He makes you play bad. That’s definitely not the way I wanted to leave from the tournament.
“I did play a good match in Toronto against him. I had my hopes high for the next time. I remember saying to myself, ‘I’m going to beat this guy next time’. That’s why I’m so disappointed today, because I wasn’t even close.”
After the high of his fourth-round victory over Federer, which saw the 20-year-old hailed as the next big star of men’s tennis, this was a crushing return to earth.
Nadal broke the Tsitsipas serve in the third game and did not look back, dropping only 12 points on serve in the match and finishing with a tally of 28 winners and 14 unforced errors. He insisted Tsitsipas should not be despondent, saying: “That’s part of the game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I lost enough times to know that. Everybody needs to live this experience. He played a great event. First semi-finals for him. He’s young. He has everything to become a great champion.”
Nadal, who dispatched Tsitsipas’ fellow young guns Alex De Minaur and Frances Tiafoe in earlier rounds, usually reserves this type of bulldozing performance through a draw for the French Open but he has barely put a foot wrong since arriving in Melbourne.
He will now look to win his second title at Melbourne Park ten years after his first. The 32-year-old has made the final three more times but lost once each to Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Federer.
If he wins on Sunday, he will achieve something neither Federer nor Djokovic have managed by winning each slam title at least twice.