Rafael Nadal has transformed into the Terminator at the Aussie Open in a display that is dropping the jaws of tennis commentators.
The attention is firmly on Rod Laver Arena today as the action reaches the pointy end of the tournament.
Wildcard Aussies Jaimee Fourlis and Jason Kubler couldn’t quite get the job done in the mixed doubles final against fifth seeds Kristina Mladenovic from France and Croatia’s Ivan Dodig but did themselves proud after coming from nowhere.
Rafael Nadal and Matteo Berrettini are now doing battle on centre court, but the match is quickly turning into a nightmare for the Italian.
Then the attention turns to the men’s singles semi-finals, as seventh seed Matteo Berrettini plays Spanish legend Rafael Nadal before fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and second seed Daniil Medvedev play off for a spot in Sunday’s decider.
‘Meanest thing he’s ever done’: Nadal is on fire
Rafael Nadal is flying through to a likely Australian Open final after racing through the first two sets against Matteo Berrettini.
Nadal blew Berrettini off the court in the first set — and the second set was just a repeat of the first with the Spaniard picking off two early breaks of serve.
Nadal was playing with Berrettini at times, picking him apart with ease.
One moment early in the second set summed it up with Nadal peppering Berrettini’s backhand, eventually forcing an error.
Nadal was twisting the screws like all the greats know how.
Nadal’s red hot form, coming off a five-set marathon left commentators stunned.
“That backhand point was the full on meanest thing Rafa has ever done,” WTA Tour expert Courtney Nguyen posted on Twitter.
Tennis journalist Jose Morgado wrote the match had turned into a “nightmare” for Berrettini, who looked flat and defeated early in the second set.
Nadal, who is chasing his second Australian Open crown and his 21st overall at grand slams, looks a man on a mission.
McGowan ruins Aussie Open star’s baby news
Matt Ebden will be chasing grand slam double glory alongside Max Purcell in the all-Aussie men’s double final but the star might have
Set to face the Special K’s of Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis on Saturday night for the men’s doubles Australian Open title, Ebden is set to have a much tougher battle on his hands as well.
Having left his eight-month pregnant wife at home in WA, Ebden is facing a tough return home in time for the birth.
Coming after WA Premier Mark McGowan backflipped on reopening the borders from February 5, Ebden said his success in Melbourne could cost him the chance to be at his child’s birth.
“I have a baby on the way. My wife is due in the next two weeks,” Ebden told Channel 9’s Today.
“So I’m delaying getting back to Perth. I have to go back and do two weeks of quarantine now and potentially miss the birth of my baby because of this (final).
“It does feel awful. When I left, it was certain that I could return on February 5, but that has changed.
“The due date is the 14th and (he or she is) likely to come early.”
The 34-year-old told 6PR that it was touch and go whether he’d be back in time.
“Obviously the border rules changed last week since I’ve been here and, yeah, my wife’s not very happy… same as many other Australians out there missing their families, loved ones, births, funerals,” he said.
“It’s just horrible … I’m on the first flight out on Sunday but have to go into hotel and home quarantine and potentially miss the birth, which is terrible.”
Ebden said he doesn’t expect any “special treatment” but hoped there were compassionate grounds.
“I know rules are rules and it might not happen but if I can go in full PPE and in a separate glass room and even just see my wife and baby through a glass room, that would special,” he added.
Ebden was the 2013 mixed doubles champion at the Australian Open and 2021 finalist and is looking to claim his first men’s doubles grand slam title.
Day 12 schedule
Rod Laver Arena
Mixed Doubles Final: Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) / Ivan Dodig (CRO)  defeated Jaimee Fourlis / Jason Kubler (AUS) 6-3 6-4
From 2.30pm: Men’s singles semi-final: Matteo Berrettini (ITA)  vs Rafael Nadal (SPA) 
From 7.30pm: Men’s singles semi-final: Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)  vs Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 
Aussies still smiling after mixed doubles defeat
Aussie wildcard pair Jaimee Fourlis and Jason Kubler were the first hopes to claim an Australian Open title but have lost in straight sets to fifth seeds Kristina Mladenovic from France and Croatia’s Ivan Dodig.
The 6-3 6-4 loss may have been crushing to some who had lost but the unexpected run seemed to be accepted well as the pair still had a smile of their faces after the match.
22-year-old Fourlis said it had been “an absolute laugh this week”.
“We started on court 15 in the sticks and slowly made our way to Rod Laver Arena,” she said. “Even playing a match at 1am. We’ve been through everything and it’s been so much fun.”
Kubler added: “It’s a shame we didn’t get the win, it would have been a pretty cool story for us, but far out we had so much fun. Thank you everyone for coming out.”
Mladenovic is no stranger to doubles success, having won the 2014 mixed doubles title with Canadian Daniel Nestor and having won three French and two Australia doubles titles in the past.
Dodig has also won titles before, taking out the men’s doubles last year to go with his 2015 French Open title, and having won two French Open and a Wimbledon title in mixed previously.
Alcott celebration is pure perfection
Dylan Alcott may not have finished his tennis career with a win, but the Aussie legend will always be a champion.
The 31-year-old delivered an emotional farewell to the sport, after losing Thursday’s quad wheelchair final.
“I’m really the luckiest guy in the world, and I didn’t need to win today to realise that,” the newly-minted Australian of the Year said courtside after the match.
“My purpose is to change perceptions, so people with disability can live the lives they deserve to live, not just in sport, but in employment, in education, in film, on TV, in dating, going to bars, going to festivals.
“It’s the reason I get out of bed. It’s not to win gold medals or grand slams.”
Sam Schroder, who defeated Alcott 7-5 6-0, paid tribute, saying: “Thank for your all that you’ve done. You’ve inspired so many people out there to get out and play sport.”
Speaking on Channel 9 after the match, Alcott thanked everyone who supported wheelchair tennis as he celebrated in a unique way — by filling his water bottle with beer.
“Don’t just watch me, watch people with disabilities in all industries sport, in their employment lives, dating, whatever it is, that’s what I’m all about,” Alcott said.
“And I’ve got beer in a water bottle so I’m excited,” he added, before taking a swig.
Host James Bracey said: “Only you would fill a water bottle with a frothy as well.”
Alcott replied: “Because I could get two (beers) in there.”
Alcott went viral at the US Open last year after becoming the first man to seal the Golden Slam — winning the Grand Slam and Paralympic or Olympic gold.
To celebrate the achievement, when he was on the big screen, he poured a beer into his trophy and skolled it.
Never change, Dylan.
Day 12 preview
Rafael Nadal can give himself a shot at becoming the first man to win 21 Grand Slam titles, providing he can get past Italian power server Matteo Berrettini when they clash in an afternoon Australian Open semi-final on Rod Laver Arena today.
Second seed Daniil Medvedev and Greek number four Stefanos Tsitsipas will renew their rivalry in a repeat of last year’s Melbourne Park last-four encounter, which was won by the Russian, in a night blockbuster.
The 35-year-old Spanish gladiator is two wins away from getting the jump on fellow 20-time Grand Slam champions and “big three” rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the race to become greatest male player in tennis history.
Nadal, seeded sixth and with just one Australian Open crown among his 20 majors, back in 2009, had modest expectations resuming after a three-and-a-half-month lay-off with a chronic foot injury at the end of last season.
But a combination of nine-time winner Djokovic’s dramatic deportation on the eve of the tournament over vaccination issues and world number three Alexander Zverev’s shock fourth-round exit cleared Nadal’s path.
Nadal has been modifying his game to compensate for a degenerative bone disease in his left foot that threatens to end his remarkable career and faces another physical test against last year’s Wimbledon finalist Berrettini.
“Today there are still doubts because the foot, it is an injury we cannot fix… so we need to find a way that the pain is under control to keep playing,” Nadal said.
Seventh seed Berrettini, 25, is the first Italian man to play in the Australian Open semi-finals.
“Playing with him on Rod Laver Arena in the semi-finals is something that I dreamed about when I was a kid,” he said of facing Nadal.
“Now I really want to win this match. I know I can do it.”
The two-metre tall Berrettini, who possesses a top-spin forehand nearly as heavy as Nadal’s, lost their only meeting in a semi-final at the 2019 US Open in straight sets.
Medvedev, the tournament favourite, needs to find his reserves of energy after two long, torrid examinations just to get to the semi-final.
Having already spoiled Djokovic’s quest for a 21st Slam in last year’s US Open final, the world number two Medvedev could this time stand in Nadal’s way — if he can again get past Tsitsipas.
Medvedev was kept on court for more than eight gruelling hours in beating American serve-volleyer Maxime Cressy then Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime just to reach the semi-finals.
“I never had this experience. I’m going to try to recover as well as possible, to be ready to play against Stefanos, because he’s a great player. I need to be at my best to beat him,” said Medvedev.
Medvedev leads Tsitsipas 6-2 in their eight meetings, with a 2-1 edge in Slams, but will have to contend with a Greek world number four “in the zone” after demolishing Italian 11th seed Jannik Sinner in straight sets.
“It was the most consistent and the best match I’ve had in the tournament,” Tsitsipas said.
“I feel like I’m in the zone. I have no plans of getting out of it. It’s part of my game.”